Aldi is accelerating the roll-out of its fresh food store format after an outperformance of stores where it has already launched.
The discounter is providing more space for fresh, chilled and food-to-go ranges in its stores after seeing “huge growth and potential” in the area.
Aldi will roll out its ‘Project Fresh’ initiative, which includes the widening and brightening of aisles, to at least 150 new stores before the end of the year, taking the total number of Project Fresh stores up to 250.
It is hoping to roll out the format to the whole store estate within three to four years.
“In the areas of fresh we see huge potential, we have already seen massive over trades in fresh meat and fresh fruit and veg”
Matthew Barnes, Aldi
Aldi UK and Ireland chief executive Matthew Barnes said: “The performance of these stores are well ahead of our forecasts and expectations, which has given us the confidence to accelerate the programme.
“Our plan is to do it as quickly as we can because the performance of those stores and feedback we get from customers is fantastic. It is a big undertaking so 150 stores next year will be a challenge for us.”
The grocer has already committed £300m to the programme as it seeks to support its core offering of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and dairy, which alone make up 45% of its sales.
Aldi says it is now the fourth largest seller of fresh produce by volume, having overtaken Morrisons earlier in the year.
Barnes added: “In the areas of fresh we see huge potential, we have already seen massive over trades in fresh meat and fresh fruit and veg.”
Aldi has seen high single-digit sales growth in the stores it has rolled out Project Fresh to so far.
Barnes said: “To achieve anywhere between 5 and 10% over performance in those stores is a very significant increase, so we are really delighted with that.”
“We have achieved a very stable level of profit when you put it in the context of the rest of the market, where there has been wild fluctuation”
Matthew Barnes, Aldi
“Aldi has universal appeal, customers have switched from every major supermarket and region in the UK, from every income group and all age groups, and we have seen some of the strongest growth is from the south of England.”
Barnes was speaking after Aldi unveiled its full-year results for the year ending December 31.
Sales rose to 13.5% to £8.74bn, but operating profit has slipped 17% to £211.3m as Aldi remains committed to shielding customers from inflation and maintain the price gap with the big four supermarkets.
Barnes said: “Pricing is clearly the biggest challenge we all face, inflation and commodity costs and the fall in sterling post-Brexit [vote] is a huge challenge for all of us to face.
“We have achieved a very stable level of profit when you put it in the context of the rest of the market, where there has been wild fluctuation. We maintained a very healthy balance sheet last year and we will do this year.
“We feel stronger than we have ever felt.”