Aldi Chateubriand

Aldi also revealed plans to sell a fresh chateaubriand - “traditionally the most expensive cut of beef”

It’s already the UK’s second-biggest supermarket for steaks. Now Aldi is raising the bar still further, with a move to increase the dry-ageing process for its Specially Selected Aberdeen Angus steaks from 30 days to 36.

Aldi has staked its reputation on its steaks as a signal to consumers of its outstanding value and quality. Its Specially Selected range, comprising a fillet, ribeye, sirloin and rump, accounts for 25% of the half a million steaks it sells every week, it claims, and it’s also featured limited edition wagyu beef steaks, whole chateaubriand and tomahawk steaks at significant discounts.

As a result the volume and value of pre-packed fresh beef frying and grilling steaks Aldi now sells [Kantar Worldpanel 12 w/e 15 July 2018] is second only to Tesco, at over 14%, despite a far lower share (7.5%) of the overall grocery market than rivals Sainsbury’s (15.6%) or Asda (15.1%) - though this figure excludes sales from meat counters.

With six extra days of dry-ageing on its premium tier ribeye, sirloin and rump steaks, it means Aldi’s steaks are matured for longer than any other UK supermarket.

“We’re going to be raising the bar that little bit higher,” said Aldi meat buyer Glen Duncanson. “The only exception is the fillet [because] when we’ve sampled it, it gets a little too gamey.”

The steaks, available from September, will also take Aldi past high-end steakhouse chains like Hawksmoor, which matures its steak for 35 days and charges up to £120 per kg for a fillet steak.

The process of dry-ageing means steaks lose weight but improve in “flavour and tenderness” as collagen is broken down, delivering a sweeter and more buttery taste. So the move - still at a huge discount - will heap more pressure on foodie favourites like Marks & Spencer (which also uses Aldi’s premium steak supplier Scotbeef) and Waitrose (which the discounter overtook in terms of market share in February), as well as big four rivals.

Aldi’s range of Specially Selected steaks come in 37% cheaper than M&S despite sharing the same supplier. (Aldi also uses ABP.) M&S did not comment on Aldi’s plans.

Aldi also revealed plans to sell a fresh chateaubriand - traditionally the most expensive cut of beef” - this Christmas, to win an even greater share of sales (after 2017 saw seasonal sales crash through £10bn for the first time, up 15% year-on-year). The chateaubriand will be “benchmarked against M&S” but at the “usual discount” to the market.

“It’s a really exciting development,” said Aldi UK CEO Giles Hurley. “We sold a chateaubriand in the freezer last Christmas [for £10] and the success of that has propelled us to go fresh.”

In a further move, Aldi is currently working on its steak packaging, with plans to move from the black plastic film to a grey film - at zero cost - so the plastic can be recycled. It’s one of a number of “quick wins” that Hurley believes Aldi can achieve to tackle the plastics conundrum thanks to its “limited sku range” and “the fact that 90% of what we sell is exclusive label, so we’re not dependent on multinational brands.”

Aldi is also keeping an eye on developing trends including plant-based and lab-grown meat.

“The market is going to develop further, really quite quickly, so when we launch a product we want to make sure it’s the right one,” said Duncanson. “It’s one of those where a lot of people test the water a little bit, and we’re happy to let them do that.

He added that lab-grown burgers are “probably a couple of years away commercially from hitting the shelves. The first time I tasted one it was £5,000 per/kg. It’s come down since but it’s still pretty expensive. The other issue with lab-grown meat is making it look natural. They all look the same.”

Hurley said he believed the moves reflected how much “our business has changed. If you look at our range we are far more focused on consumer insight and development.

“What’s happening in the restaurants is reflected far more quickly in what we sell here. For example: our halloumi chips. We got our inspiration from Nando’s and demand is outstripping supply, which is a nice problem to have. We launched in double-quick time but were held back by a shortage of halloumi.”