The main UK supermarkets are losing out to Aldi & Lidl & reasons to buy local

Just two years ago the aisles of Lidl and Aldi stores across the country were filling with members of  the price-savvy middle classes. However, they were desperate not to be seen in there by any of their own social circle. Fast forward to today, and the middle classes are loudly and proudly singing the praises of Aldi and Lidl, snapping up the great quality, albeit cut-price, essentials throughout the stores. So, it’s now socially acceptable for people to shop at these discounted stores, and middle class shoppers can often to be heard openly comparing the price of staple grocery items to their much-preferred Waitrose.

Opposite ends of the scale: Aldi, Lidl & Waitrose prosper, whilst Tesco & Sainsbury’s fight to get more profits…

Interestingly, since the banking crisis hit, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose have been the supermarkets that have prospered; whilst Tesco and Sainsbury’s have seen their profits fall. In fact, Sainsbury’s even plans to relaunch Netto as its own discount chain.

We are about to talk a lot about tinned beans. Not through obsession, or need, but rather as a representative product….

What seems to be happening in the heart of British cities is that all shoppers have finally woken up to the fact that a tin of beans is a tin of beans. Market your brand as aggressively, or as sexily as you like, but we all know it still just is a tin of beans. Once heated and spread on toast with pepper and brown sauce, it’s always going to taste fantastic!

So, what the discounters have been busily doing on the food and drink stands is supplying beans and other British staples at the best possible prices. With this obviously attractive shift in prices, there has also been a seismic shift in attitudes. Not too long ago, only the tightest of shoppers would be seen dead with a “German” tin of beans. Now the attitude is much more – well if it’s good enough for the Germans……..

Are we disillusioned with the supermarket giants?

So, does this in itself indicate a real disaffection for the main UK supermarkets? Our modern history is littered with innovative brand campaigns and slogans for products vying with each other to be seen as the “best”. Sometimes, these different brands are even owned by the same company! All are intended to position that product as leader within that price point and to take its own market share. Some of the slogans and words used in the campaigns became, as intended, synonymous with the product and even, the ultimate accolade for a marketeer, to make it into the official dictionary of the British language.

Back to why Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose have managed to remain recession-proof

You may have seen stories over the past 2 to 3 years about the rapidly rising cost of food, with floods and other environmental factors being to blame (as well as speculation on the stock markets). In fact, the last 18 months has seen a huge increase in press coverage about the increased demand on food banks.

Nefarious supermarket tactics!

In fact, people are now more aware of the huge lengths that supermarkets go to in order to make people spend more. Now we’re becoming more aware of the false ‘special offers’, bulk buys that actually end up costing more (where signs imply they cost less weight for weight), product placement and many other psychological tricks – a certain resentment has grown. People are becoming turned off by these techniques.

Environmental and financial concerns are influential factors

Throw in the fact that people are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues such as food miles, food waste and sustainability; we have seen shoppers become more savvy when it comes to their consumer habits. Tesco now gets an incredibly bad rap for having wiped out traditional green grocers and butchers on local high streets as they have monopolised the UK. 

Whilst the basics can be bought for less at Lidl and Aldi, people are much more conscious of where meat and dairy products come from, with many opting for quality over quantity. Naturally, the horse meat scandal has added to people’s mistrust.

The horse meat scandal: people have lost trust

There are plenty of people who’d be happy to eat horse if they were told it was horse, but they resent being sold it as beef (for beef prices too). Never mind the fact that the origins of these horses were dubious, and some carcasses contained drugs that aren’t legally allowed to enter the food chain in the UK.

So, more people are shopping at Waitrose for meat and dairy products, because although they come with a higher price tag, they come from a trusted source and Waitrose is one supermarket that can definitely be relied upon in that sense. So, it’s largely a case of tighter budgets, smart shopping and quality over quantity.

Furthermore, there’s just more media coverage about where our food comes from, how it’s produced and the ethics (or, lack thereof) behind food manufacturers and retailers. We’ve seen a consumer backlash against unethical companies, including supermarkets, with more people choosing to boycott Tesco and companies such as Nestle for various reasons. You could say that the middle classes are more mindful of who they spend their money with and the power they hold as consumers.

People are more concerned with how their food has been produced

Meanwhile, another facet of this increased knowledge of how food manufacturers and supermarkets conduct business means that people know how certain food is made. Most of us know about mechanically recovered meat in cheap processed meat products, and those of a certain age still haven’t forgotten the mad cow disease (BSE) scare of the 1990’s. So, it’s no wonder that more people want to know where our food comes from, how animals have been reared and how food is produced. People just want transparency!

You know exactly what you’re getting when you buy local!

However, we’ve also seen a move towards buying local. The beauty of this is that you can often meet the business owner, and the chances are they’ll be happy to explain exactly how they make their products, where their ingredients come from and take great pride in this!