Booming Aldi to open 50 more stores
Discount supermarket Aldi has pledged to open 50 new stores in the UK this year after earning a record profits haul and boosting its market share.
The retailer is increasingly opening in affluent locations such as Chancellor George Osborne's constituency in Knutsford, Cheshire, with its 500th UK store due to open in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, next month.
The UK's fastest-growing supermarket said fresh meat and vegetable sales are soaring as household budgets are squeezed by rising bills.
It recorded £157.9 million of UK pre-tax profits in 2012, up 124% on a year earlier, according to figures published today at Companies House. Revenues surged more than 40% to £3.9 billion after luring more than a million extra customers during the year.
Its expansion plans contrast with some of its "Big Four" rivals, with market leader Tesco and number four player Morrisons calling time on the supermarket space race.
Aldi opened 34 new stores in 2012 at a cost of £116.5 million, and is on track to add another 50 this year, creating 6,000 extra jobs and investing £185 million.
The retailer, which started out in Essen, Germany, in 1913, said "polarisation" in the grocery market is driving its growth alongside upmarket chain Waitrose.
Cash-strapped households are flocking to the chain as budgets shrink amid stubbornly high inflation, while a string of accolades and products such as British sirloin steak and extra virgin olive oil win over wealthier customers.
Joint managing director Matthew Barnes said the chain is attracting a "broader demographic".
He said: "We have opened in affluent locations like Knutsford and Winchester and have quickly won over local customers with our award-winning quality and value.
"If we can open more stores, we will make Aldi a more convenient place for people to do their weekly shop."
Its market share now stands at 3.7%, up by almost a third from a year earlier, when it stood at 2.9%.
Meanwhile, market share continues to slide at Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, with Sainsbury's the only Big Four chain to grow its share.
Fruit and vegetable sales soared by almost 50% in 2012, Aldi said, while meat sales have risen 60% year on year for the past three years.
The chain's premium Specially Selected range - which includes ground Colombian coffee and an award-winning Parmigiano Reggiano hard cheese - grew sales 40%. Customers spend an average £18.63, it added, buying around 17 products.
Joint boss Roman Heini said: "We believe growth is down to one thing - customers demanding true value.
"Families are spending more time at home to avoid the expense of eating out at restaurants."
The retailer said it has doubled the size of its Christmas range - including a luxury Serrano ham leg - to win more share from its rivals.
The Aldi group now has more than 7,000 stores across three continents.