Up until the 1990s, the UK had a pretty well established pecking order of supermarkets. From Waitrose and M&S at the top, to Asda at the more budget end, everyone pretty much shopped within their expected buying demographic. And then Aldi and Lidl arrived and changed everything.
Where did they come from?
Aldi and Lidl are German brands that landed in the UK retail market in the early 90s. Initially, they were designed to cater purely for those looking for cheap deals and low cost food and household items. However, today between them these two German giants now have a 12% share of the UK grocery market, which is spread across many different demographics. Lidl has plans to open another 60 shops in the UK across the next year and both are likely to remain a force to be reckoned with. Which means that even if you might not have thought about shopping there before you could now be one of hundreds of shoppers considering it.
How to shop at Aldi and Lidl if you’ve never been there before
Long gone are the days when you might have gone to Lidl or Aldi for cheap tins or packaged goods when freshness or provenance wasn’t really a priority. Both of these stores now have ranges that tap into consumer desires for food with a traceable heritage and have grown to understand the importance of the shopping experience. So, shopping at Lidl, for example, no longer feels like browsing a warehouse – since the focus on quality was introduced everything has been upgraded.
Get to know the product ranges. For example, Lidl now has a range of fresh fish that is MSC-certified, which means the fish has been caught sustainably. Aldi dedicates an entire page on its website to its organic focus. All Aldi own label baby food is organic and the range of organic fruit and vegetables at the store increases year on year.
Understand the limitations. One of the ways that these supermarkets keep their prices down is to avoid buying in the big name brands. So, if you’re looking to be brand specific in your purchases, especially if that brand is very well known or high end, then you’re unlikely to find what you’re looking for in a Lidl or Aldi store. However, if you’re willing to forgo the big name logos and labels and test to find the right quality and taste you could get more for your money without compromising.
Look for the copycat own label products. Lidl and Aldi sail pretty close to the wind when it comes to their own label ranges, which often bear a striking resemblance to big branded products. However, this makes them enormously popular with consumers as in many cases you’re getting virtually the same product for (often) half the price – just in different packaging. Brexit has had some impact on Aldi and Lidl with reports that the falling pound has meant some of the lower priced products have risen to around the same level of competitors. However, for many items the value is still there.
Work out how much you could save. The simplest way to quantify the true value of shopping at Aldi or Lidl is to put together a basket of your average weekly shop and see how much it costs compared to another supermarket. Use an app like Latestdeals, which will show you which stores offer the cheapest options when it comes to the goods that you buy the most. What you save depends on the products you buy and how you shop. However, there are plenty of surveys and studies to show that you will save at least something. For example, participants in a Telegraph survey saved 25% by shopping at Aldi and data from analysts Nielsen found shoppers spend £15 less at Aldi and Lidl than at the ‘big four’ Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
Don’t be put off by fears about quality. Traditionally, it was quality concern that drove many shoppers to higher end super markets. However, both Lidl and Aldi have put a lot of time and effort into improving quality and taste standards. And it seems to have worked – in a 2016 Christmas Good Housekeeping blind taste tests of mulled wine, smoked salmon and mince pies, Lidl and Aldi beat Fortnum & Mason’s and Harrods.
Listen to what others think. Mumsnet, for example, is full of opinions on whether Lidl and Aldi really are worth the hype – these are just a few of them:
“Lidl has more brands you will recognise. Aldi has (IMO) wider range of stuff. I can do weekly shop in Aldi and not need to go anywhere else.”
“Aldi is considerably cheaper than Tesco, shopping carefully or otherwise.”
“Aldi’s own brand personal care & household cleaners are not tested on animals and that swings it for me.”
“Aldi! I’ve shaved off at least 50 -70 quid a week shopping there instead of Tesco.”
“Not sure if our Aldi is different to everyone else’s but I find it good for quite junky food where I can much more fresh fruit and veg and plain meat (as in not the easy to cook with sauce etc) in Lidl.”
There are now 600+ Lidl stores in the UK and Aldi opened its 700th in February 2017. Most are smaller and more accessible than the big out of town hypermarkets other supermarket brands opt for. So if you want to start shopping at Aldi or Lidl there’s highly likely to be one near you right now.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam