Christmas for scrooges: Award-winning champagne for £9.99, whole cooked lobsters for £5.99. But how do they manage to sell them so cheaply?

Budget supermarkets are hoping to lure middle-class shoppers with luxury festive bargains

A Michelin-starred chef and award-winning champagne at an exclusive London club: it’s not a scene that usually makes me think “budget supermarket”. But the lobster, scallops and venison I was served by celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli last week at Home House, the private members’ club on London’s Portman Square, was part of a four-course, fine-dining experience created entirely from the products of the German chain Aldi.

Named Dial (a cunning anagram of Aldi, if you hadn’t noticed), the pop-up restaurant was the latest move from the store to boost its foodie credentials, following an influx of middle-class customers who have cottoned on to the fact that quality doesn’t have to cost the earth.

The festive season, with its abundance of parties and dinners, is the perfect opportunity for budget stores to throw themselves into promoting their deluxe lines that target choosier new patrons. With Aldi products such as a stilton pot for £3.99 and £4.99 luxury cheese selections, lobster tails at £9.99 and champagne for the same price – the taste of which just happened to beat a £130 bottle of Veuve Clicquot in a recent awards ceremony – low-price supermarkets are proving that Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of excessive spending, even for discerning foodies.

Discount stores are attracting more British shoppers than ever, according to Kantar Worldpanel, the consumer-behaviour analysts. The dominant supermarket chains such as Tesco and Asda have lost market share for the first time in a decade, thanks to the steady rise of low-cost, own-brand stores such as Aldi and Lidl. And research shows that the cut-price stores are not only attracting the most cash-strapped customers. A fifth of shoppers who have switched their allegiances are from the middle-class, and recent openings of Aldi’s stores in leafier areas such as Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Beverley, Cowes, Knutsford, Winchester and Bury St Edmunds demonstrate that the brand has taken note of this.

The number of customers doing their full shop at Aldi has increased from 2.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent. Of those who switched, 36 per cent came from Tesco, 19.7 per cent came from Asda, 16.7 per cent from Morrison’s and 12.7 per cent from Sainsbury’s, having been drawn by the Aldi’s new luxury range and locally sourced fruit and vegetables, according to figures from Verdict Research.

It’s no wonder, then, that Aldi has had a bumper year with sales growth of 30.8 per cent. Lidl, Aldi’s rival discount German chain, has also had an impressive 12 months, with a sales growth of 13.8 per cent.

Aldi and Lidl’s increased popularity in the past few years is not only a result of straitened economic conditions but also of the budget stores’ emphasis on quality. Thomas Hobbs, from The Grocer, says, “Everybody, whether working class or middle class, likes to think that they are price savvy, especially within the current economic climate, and the advertising from the discounters, which has been putting across the quality and price of products in a simple format, is feeding into this need.” According to Hobbs, the draw of a cheap supermarket is stronger in trying times and more appealing to the middle-class buyers who want to save money where they can. “With Lidl and Aldi rapidly expanding, if they can keep up the pace, who’s to say some of the big four won’t consider launching their own discount variants?” he asked.

Mindful that well-heeled new customers might return to what they know as the economy recovers, the German stores are aggressively emphasising their quality and choice this winter. Aldi has expanded its product range from 800 lines to 1,350, including an extended luxury line, to allow customers to do their full weekly shop in the store, rather than just popping in for a few bargains.

The shop’s advertising this Christmas seems to target this new, middle-class demographic. Based on the original advertising strapline “Like brands. Only cheaper”, the Aldi Christmas campaign works around the adapted line “There’s a lot to like this Christmas”. The advertisement features smoked salmon, champagne, chocolate reindeer, wine and mince pies, which people in the ad declare to “like” just as much as their more expensive branded counterparts.

In addition to the TV ad campaign, Aldi is actively promoting the quality of its food, to try to lure discerning customers through its doors this Christmas. Jean-Christophe Novelli was approached by Aldi to be the chef at the one-day restaurant after doing a blind tasting of its food with the Daily Mail. On most products, Aldi came off very well, scoring nines and tens from Novelli. His menu was created around Aldi’s newly expanded luxury Christmas range, using ingredients exclusively from the store. This was the first time in 10 years that Novelli had cooked a service in a proper restaurant and his attention to detail was impressive, even going so far as to send a dish back from another table due to a “collapsed ice cream”.

Novelli said he felt no need to disguise the ingredients of the dish; not only did they live up to the chef’s high standards, he also made the ingredients the focus, highlighting the lobster (which the shop sells for £9.99), scallops (£5.49) and venison (£6.99) and even serving a Black Forest stollen pudding (£1.99) completely as is from the shop. Novelli was right to stay true to the ingredients. Simply prepared with modern flavours, the dishes were far more Michelin star than budget store.

Aldi's marzipan stollen Aldi's marzipan stollen
Lidl has also gone upmarket with its Christmas advertising campaign, perhaps in an effort to cash in on the increasing number of “Maidstone Mums” (a phrase coined by Lidl’s marketing director Ronny Gottschlich in reference to his new clientele) shopping at the store. Its December in-store magazine has recipes from its own celebrity chef, Nick Nairn, as well as featuring luxury products such as £3.99 salmon caviar and whole legs of Serrano ham for £39.99. The glossy magazine features smart food photography and fashionable recipes such as curried scotch eggs with cauliflower purée, a dramatic step away from the cheap-and-cheerful attitude most of us would associate with the store.

But how can shops with such tight margins afford to sell luxury products so cheaply? Small economies in store, such as super quick checkouts and smaller staffs, are key to their models.

A spokesman for Aldi says: “You notice it in the store – there are little touches: products may be in their delivery packaging and we don’t have thousands of staff turning every can round the right way, but it allows for the cheap prices.”

The smaller product range also saves Aldi money because fewer suppliers are used and the focus is on its own-brand produce. Compared with the 30,000-strong product line available in the “big four”, Aldi’s offering of 1,350 reflects the concentrated of the selection.

All of which raises the prospect of scrooges across Middle England eating a cheap but tasty Christmas dinner this year. A recent report from the Good Housekeeping Institute shows that, at Lidl, an entire Christmas dinner for eight (with most of the trimmings) can be bought for just £27.33, with the same products at Aldi coming to a slightly dearer £31.70.

In this time of reverse snobbism, economic instability and middle-class fear, shops such as Aldi and Lidl are cashing in on the desire for quality products and the requirement for cheap pricing in the hope of maintaining their success.

As they say, the proof will be in the (Christmas) pudding. But if Aldi is good enough for Novelli, it must stand a chance with the Maidstone Mums.

All the festivities - half the budget

The festive season is the perfect opportunity for budget stores to promote their deluxe lines

Aldi Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut by Philizot, £9.99

Won a silver medal in the International Wine Challenge 2013, and also in the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2013 and the Decanter World Wine Awards 2013, in which it beat a £130 bottle of Veuve Clicquot

Aldi Specially Selected Long Clawson Blue Stilton, £1.69 for 220g

Winner of a Great Taste Award 2013

Lidl Whole Cooked Lobster, £5.99 for 350g

Cooked whole for visual effect and fast-frozen to retain flavour

Aldi Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin, £9.65

Another silver medallist, this time in the International Spirits Challenge 2013 and the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2013, beating £21 Bombay Sapphire and £26 Hendricks

Lidl Diced Reindeer, £7.99 for 500g

Be experimental with these diced Siberian reindeer steaks, always popular at Christmas, apparently

Aldi Specially Selected 12 Month Matured Christmas Pudding, £6.99 for 750g

A gold winner at the Good Quality Food Awards Christmas 2013

Lidl Quails, two for £4.99

The traditional English game bird is an elegant alternative to turkey

Aldi Specially Selected Mince Pies, £1.69 for six

Winner of Which? Best Buy mince pies, beating Fortnum & Mason’s and Harrod’s

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick