In 1962, the Albrecht brothers opened Europe’s first discount store in Essen. Few products, sold directly from their pallet or shipping box, and low prices were the key to Aldi’s success, which soon extended its reach throughout Germany and Europe. The former food wholesaler Lidl later overtook Aldi with branches in 29 countries. With an estimated turnover of 80,5 billion Euros per year, Lidl is the largest discount supermarket chain in Europe according to the “FRUIT LOGISTICA European Statistics Handbook 2019”, followed by Aldi with a turnover of 61,9 billion Euros and the Russian chain Pyaterochka in third place (17,8 billion Euros).
Until the 1970s, discount stores hardly sold any fruits and vegetables. Today, fresh goods play an increasingly important role for the trade segment. According to the “FRUIT LOGISTICA Trend Report 2019”, which the management consulting firm Oliver Wyman drew up for the third time this year, discount supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi are working to expand their fruit and vegetable assortment in order to also reach upper- and middle-income groups in urban areas. Even freshly-cut lettuces are now on the shelves, as are organic fruits and vegetables. Bananas are the most sold fruit in discount supermarkets and the biggest source of sales. As for vegetables, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers are the most popular. According to the study, taste, size and shape are consumers’ main criteria when looking for fresh products in supermarkets.
The acceptance of discount supermarkets as fruit and vegetable sellers varies widely in Europe: While Danes bought 41 percent of their fresh produce in discount stores in 2017, followed by Germany (39 percent) and Poland (31 percent), that figure was only 5 percent in Spain. According to the authors of the European Statistics Handbook, Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Italian consumers continue to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at markets or in small shops.
Julian Beer, Managing Director, Purchasing, Lidl Dienstleistung GmbH & Co. KG
How important are fruits and vegetables for discount stores?
Fruits and vegetables are our flagstaff. They stand for maximum freshness and optimum quality at the best price. Our efficient logistics routes provide our customers with a selection that changes every day and is always crisp and fresh.
Which fruit is your bestseller?
Interestingly, bananas are our best-selling individual product. This creates a heavy responsibility. We have started to switch all our bananas to Fairtrade. Producers receive minimum prices and bonuses they can choose to use for social projects or schools.
How are you responding to customers’ requests for less plastic and increased regionality?
We are reducing plastic and using innovative types of packaging. We are continually increasing the proportion of unpackaged fruits and vegetables. The issue of regionality also plays an important role. Our Bioland cooperation, for example, involves switching to domestically-sourced produce.