Aldi has announced that it will be selling Wagyu beef this summer. It's one of the most expensive types of steak, at an eye-watering £6.99 for an 8oz sirloin steak. Why is it so expensive, why is Aldi stocking it?
And would you buy it?
The steakWagyu beef traditionally comes from Japan and is insanely expensive because of the rarity of the cattle and the intensity of the rearing process. The meat produced by this cattle is a marbled beef - the fat of which melts into the meat during the cooking process in order to produce a particularly succulent steak.
The popularity of Wagyu has meant that the cattle has been imported to other major countries, and Aldi's beef comes from New Zealand (Asda is the only other supermarket to stock it and its Wagyu comes from Australia). However, it still has the marbling which makes this meat special.
The cost seems extreme, but for Wagyu this is a bargain. For a top end steak you can expect to pay £35 - so £7 is a snip. The experts might claim that a higher price will buy you a higher grade of meat - but this is definitely a superior supermarket offering.
The strategyIt's not Aldi's first foray into luxury. It has a 'Specially Selected' range of produce designed to appeal to middle class shoppers with luxury tastes. It also stocks a range of very high-end products at key times of the year. In November, for example, it announced a range of specialist luxury drinks, including a 30-year-old Speyside single malt whisky which usually costs £131, which was priced at £54.99. There was also a non-vintage Grand Cru Champagne which usually sells for £43, but was retailing at Aldi for £22.99.
It is attempting to secure a reputation for stocking luxury products for discerning customers - which is part of a drive to become the supermarket of choice for the middle classes. This strategy has also seen it open stores in a number of well-heeled towns, including George Osborne's constituency in Knutsford, Cheshire.
On winning Retailer of the Year at the Retail Week awards in March, a spokesman said: "People want to, rather than need to, shop at Aldi, and it's down to our exceptional quality, our relevance to the British consumer and everyday low pricing."
The strategy appears to be succeeding: a report by Verdict found that almost 20% of all Aldi shoppers are middle class - or wealthier - as it attracts shoppers from the big four. It may only have marginally less than 5% of the market, but is growing at 36% a year, and it can only be a matter of time before it poses a real threat to the supermarket establishment.
But while there's no arguing with the strategy, and the subsequent results, there's the question of whether Wagyu beef is really the best way of attracting discerning customers. Is it going to woo the committed Fortnum & Mason's shopper? Are there large numbers of gourmet chefs who would have been shopping at Aldi for years if they only met their every-day need for Wagyu? Or it is hoping to tempt those of us who have never tried Wagyu because of the prohibitive cost and might just give it a try at £6.99?
What do you think? Would you buy it?