Aldi launches organics for middle class appeal

Aldi has launched a range of affordable organic fruit and vegetables - to win more middle class shoppers

Close up of vegetables for sale

Aldi has fired another shot in the supermarket battle for middle class shoppers: it has launched a range of organic produce. The range will start with carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and onions, and will cost as little as quarter of the price of their counterparts elsewhere.

More fresh fruit and vegetables will arrive in stores in the coming weeks, and the complete range will be in place by January 2015. Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying Tony Baines said in a statement that it was the result of customer research which showed that people were interested in buying organic food, but found it too expensive.

He added: "At Aldi we believe it's important for organic produce to be available to everyone". He added that it meant that: "Now more than ever, they can buy their entire weekly shop at Aldi."

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Middle classes

While Baines is clear that he wants everyone to be able to afford organic food, it's also safe to assume that this is part of the store's ongoing plan to win more middle class shoppers. They already make up 18.6% of shoppers to the store (according to Verdict) - which is now a fixture in posh towns like Bury St Edmonds and Knutsford (George Osborne's constituency). However, Aldi plans to bring in even more wealthy shoppers, by opening more stores in more upmarket areas, and expanding the range of premium products.

For Christmas it has introduced a number of luxury products to appeal to these shoppers - including caviar, scallops, whole goose and lobster. Now it has announced that it will also be beefing up its 'specially selected' range - a higher quality range introduced for more selective shoppers.

New products will include Angus 30 Day Aged Sirloin Steak, and a cold pressed rapeseed oil. The idea is to capitalise on the fact that sales of this range have increased 74% in the past 12 months, as middle class shoppers combine discount shopping with a drive for quality.

And in order to expand its appeals even more widely, it will also be increasing its core range by 11% - to offer a wider range of products to all its shoppers.

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Will it work?

A strategy of stocking middle class classics like organic broccoli and 'specially selected' steak would have seemed ridiculous before the financial crisis, when middle class shoppers would no more go to Aldi than they would buy their Christmas presents from the Poundshop.

However, times have changed, and now the discounters have pushed into every segment of the UK market. Verdict argues that part of this is the result of financial pressure, but that part is also a cultural shift towards reverse snobbism - where people don't want to serve fancy labels - they want to demonstrate their prowess in finding the quality items available from the discounters.

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The impact of this cultural change can be seen very clearly from the financial results of the discounters. Last month Aldi announced a 65% increase in profits to £260.9 million. And given that it will open 54 new stores this year and another 65 next year, it's not safe for the big supermarkets to assume that any of their customers are immune to the appeal of the discounters.

Many of the big supermarkets have been fighting their corner by arguing that they can offer a bigger range, and more high-end products. The question is whether this latest move will bring so many of the middle classes into the fold of the discounters that the big supermarkets are forced to change track.

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