February 19, 2020

Aldi: best of British or authentically German?

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Stand-up comedian Kevin Bridges once made fun of Scottish children on holiday, suggesting the lower-class mother could be recognised by having ‘Lidl’ and ‘Aldi’ tattooed across each hand. But since then, the common perception of the two German discount supermarkets in the UK seems to have changed.

Aldi opened its first store in the UK in 1990 and over the last twenty-five years has taken the country by storm, recently surpassing Waitrose to become the UK’s sixth biggest supermarket. Why do people love Aldi? There’s little doubt that the low-prices are attractive. By offering fewer items than usual grocery stores and mainly private labels, using fewer workers and no-frills store design, Aldi drives down prices.

However, despite these cost-saving measures, Aldi is not seen as a store only for people without much money. It has become mainstream and recent research indicates that families considered “upper middle class” or “middle class” account for almost one in three shoppers at Aldi.

Why Aldi, not other discount grocery stores? Rather than solely focusing on price cuts in communications, Aldi has been championing quality, a move that likely sets it apart from competitors. This is reflected in its products too, for example Aldi has won awards for its wine.

But I would argue Aldi offers something else: compared to the ‘big four’ supermarkets in the UK (Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons) it’s unique, with interesting private labels and ‘authentic’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ products, such as ‘real’ continental chocolates and ‘exotic’ pickles and oils. It offers customers something a bit different.

It’s interesting, therefore, that Aldi is embarking on a year-long campaign to push its British credentials and tell the story of its contibution to the UK (for example, by sponsoring the British Olympic team). It will be interesting to see how Aldi manages to marry messages of low-price, quality and British contribution and whether this will help it remain one of the UK’s most loved supermarkets over the years to come.

Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow About Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow

Teaching Fellow at Edinburgh Business School. Part of the Marketing teaching team, focusing on the Consumer Behaviour elective.