Aldi has ditched some of its higher-ticket non-food promotions for ambient grocery in a bid to reverse sliding non-food sales.

Aldi's growth has been one of the success stories of the downturn but sales of the discounter's 'when it's gone, it's gone' Special Buys have fallen since the autumn, UK boss Paul Foley admitted.

He declined to give figures but said Special Buy sales - which previously accounted for 20% of total sales - were "hard work at the moment". There were now an average of 25 food lines on the Special Buy tables, he said.

"We sell whatever is relevant to the consumer, which at the moment is more food and drink items and less non-food," he said. "There is a need to move away from some of the high-value non-food lines because people are too cautious to part with money on them."

The food lines, which are in addition to the 1,000 core lines on the shelves, allowed Aldi to offer more unusual products such as Greek sauces, papaya, specialist noodles and specialist ales and confectionery, said Foley.

"Every week we have a different sort of food that is authentic or interesting," he said. "This has all contributed towards making the stores more attractive to the ABC1 customers we have been winning."

Aldi has also delisted some ready meals and introduced more ingredient lines. Sales of cake-making products were up 30% on last year and sales of pasta products and sauces had risen "quite dramatically", said Foley.

Despite the fall in non-food sales, turnover for January and February was up 17% over 2008. Aldi has increased its retail space by 7% to 8% over the period, opening its 400th UK store last week. It plans to continue opening a store a week in the UK and Ireland.

Foley said getting planning permission in wealthy towns was no longer a problem. Representatives from councils in "three rather upmarket towns" had requested that Aldi open a store there, he claimed.