Aldi was crowned Grocer of the Year 2009 at The Grocer Gold Awards last night.
In front of a packed audience at The Dorchester Hotel, London, the German-owned discounter chain overcame the challenge of supermarket giants Asda and Morrisons to win the ultimate accolade, one of 21 awards handed out on the evening.
But Aldi's victory was by no means the only surprise of the night. Other winners included:
- Mr Kipling's Big French Fancy (Premier Foods), which won the Top Launch of the Year, outscoring hot favourites KitKat Senses (Nestle), Ariel Excel Gel (Procter + Gamble), and Heinz Snap Pots (HJ Heinz) among others.
- Ocado, which scooped the Green Retailer of the Year award, despite the huge management time and significant investment devoted by larger supermarket multiples to the environmental agenda. Ocado also won Online Retailer of the Year award despite strong competition from Asda and Tesco.
- JJ Foodservice, a £117m-sales catering specialist, triumphed over cash and carry giants Booker and Palmer & Harvey and foodservice behemoths Brakes and 3663.
JJ Foodservice started out supplying to kebab shops. Today it's branched out to supply local authorities and even won a new £2.5m contract on the day of the awards to supply Derbyshire County Council.
"Tonight proved resoundingly that big isn't always best," said Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer. "I wouldn't go so far as to say there's a new world order, but the credit crunch has destabilized the market and created new opportunities. Combined with a bit of good old-fashioned entrepreneurialism, smaller companies can outfox their larger rivals.
"Aldi's victory stands out because of the sheer strength of the competition. With sales up more than 20%, it's still a minnow in the UK, with estimated sales of £2bn versus the £120bn sales of the Big Four.
"But Aldi identified the gap in the market, forced the mighty Tesco to re-evaluate its offer and even to change its strap-line; it's set the agenda with its single-price promotions; and caused a lot of head-scratching at the big supermarkets with its highly efficient cost-base and its growing appeal to consumers despite a limited assortment of goods."
Aldi also beat Liverpool-based Home Bargains/TJ Morris to win the Discounter of the Year, one of four new awards at this year's sell-out event.
The most eagerly anticipated new award was for the Store Manager of the Year. After a dramatic day of presentations by store managers from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose, involving a Dragons' Den-style grilling by a panel of eminent grocery retail judges, Mike Toth, from Morrisons' Coventry branch, was crowned Store Manager of the Year.
It capped a strong night for Morrisons, which also secured the awards for service and availability. Asda won the award for price for the 12th consecutive year.
But the overall showing of the Big Four was muted. Sainsbury's won the Consumer Initiative of the Year for its exemplary Switch & Save campaign. And Tesco also won only one award, for Britain's Favourite Supermarket, the only award of the evening decided by consumers.
It was a strong year for the resurgent Co-operative Group, which won the Business Initiative of the Year and the Own-Label Range of the Year.
See a full list of last night's winners.