Source: Aldi

The discounter plans to extend its wagyu range across its entire estate over the next two years

Aldi is planning to significantly increase its range of own label British-sourced wagyu beef on the back of a big jump in production volumes by UK farmers.

The discounter currently sells 18 British wagyu products via its Specially Selected range year-round, at stores in two of its 11 UK regions (Atherstone and Chelmsford).

But after a steady increase in production volumes of British wagyu via its supplier Warrendale Wagyu, the discounter now plans to extend the range across its entire estate over the next two years.

It follows a switch in Aldi’s main beef supplier during the spring, from Scotbeef to ABP.

Renowned for its superior eating quality and animal welfare credentials, wagyu beef originated in Japan but its popularity has grown rapidly in the west in recent years.

Aldi told The Grocer the “luxury” range – which is the only own label offering of its kind in the mults – had “flown off the shelves” since launching as a Specialbuy in February 2020. Total wagyu sales volumes climbed by 187% between 2020 and 2022, exceeding the retailer’s expectations.

Its range – which includes products as diverse as thick-cut tomahawk steaks, slow-cooked ribs and pies – offered shoppers the equivalent of “top restaurant-worthy meals” for a fraction of the cost, the discounter added.

There are 500-plus farmers who rear beef for Warrendale Wagyu, all of whom have to meet the strict criteria of the British Wagyu Association. These farmers have “grown their businesses on the back of the demand we have created”, Aldi said.

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Those supplying Warrendale have to meet the strict minimum criteria of the British Wagyu Association which includes using fullblood wagyu genetics crossed with dairy breeds in a grass-based production system.

“This approach gives a value to calves born in the dairy supply chain, an issue the food industry has been tackling for many years and has great sustainability credentials,” Aldi said, while the approach had also been recognised by Compassion in World Farming with a Gold ‘Good Calf Award’.

Operating in such a production system also afforded farmers “a stable income above the cost of production so farmers can plan ahead”, said Chris Dickinson, a partner farmer of Warrendale Wagyu, who finishes cattle for Aldi and other customers.

“The eating quality is great, and we want to grow the wagyu breed to be a major player in the UK beef market,” he added, while applauding Aldi for committing to a product “that offered a fair margin for UK farmers and complete fairness in its supply chain”. 

Dickinson said Warrendale Wagyu was also seeing strong demand from beef farmers looking to convert to wagyu production. It currently had 30,000 animals contracted to the business, with that figure increasing by 400 per week.