Karl Hodgson - PIP Aldi Visit

Karl Hodgson provides an insight into the recent Poultry Industry Programme visit to the Aldi UK head office at Atherstone. He writes: 

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I live and work on the family farm in Cumbria. We have broilers, arable cropping and an agricultural contracting business. After leaving college I am now taking on a greater role in all aspects of the family business. As a member of the NFU and proud participant on the Poultry Industry Programme, the course has provided me with a much broader understanding of the poultry sector and about how much the NFU does on behalf of all farmers.

On the 30 January 2020, day two of the fourth PIP event, we travelled to Aldi’s Head office in Atherstone, Warwickshire. On arrival we could see dozens of trucks and trailers lined up in the loading bays, each trailer covered by a large Union Jack with the slogan ‘Championing Great British Quality’. I think this is a great advert to be proud of, well done Aldi!

Once inside the impressive glass fronted main office building, we met Harriet Wilson, CR Manager for Aldi. Inside their conference room, she gave us an insight into Aldi’s history: founded by Karl and Theo Albercht in 1948. Harriet discussed Aldi’s progress and growth in the retail world. Their core values include simplicity, consistency and responsibility. To list a few facts, they have 870 stores and 9 distribution centres in the UK and have a market share of 8.2%. Have you ever wondered how Aldi’s prices are so cheap? Harriet went on to discuss this with us; limited item lines means low overheads, simplicity as a business reduces labour requirements and bulk packaging and barcodes are used for price recognition and stock lists. Benchmarking and high-volume purchases were also key components.

After Harriet’s informative introduction, Laura Saunders, the Buying Director (poultry and pork) for Aldi told us about their fresh poultry meat products - 100% of which is Red Tractor. Aldi have 30% volume share of the total market for poultry meat which makes them number two retailer by volume in the UK. BBQ season was great for Aldi and they were the biggest poultry retailer in this category for the summer period. Afterwards Josh Smith, the Buying Director (eggs and continental meats) spoke to us about the egg market and how it grew from 2018 to 2019 by 5.8% in volume, with Aldi selling just over 1 billion eggs in 2019 alone. Clear, distinct green packaging for free range eggs which is positioned at chest height on shelves subsequently caused an increase in sales. 70% of all packs sold in Aldi stores are free range or organic and the business has pledged to go cage free by 2025.

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Following the session with the Aldi buyers we then met two of Aldi’s suppliers. The first was Moy Park and we met representatives David Mark and Kate Armstrong. They explained how the company works in general and their close relationship with Aldi. David discussed the importance of the Red Tractor assurance scheme, which guarantees traceability, high welfare standards and a great quality product. The Red Tractor scheme allows the general public to have confidence and assurance that they are buying the best of British.

Next, Sarah Louise Fairburn from Fairburn’s Eggs discussed how their collaboration with Aldi started back in 2012. They now have 44 producers plus their own farms, producing over 17 million eggs per week. Fairburn's eggs have won numerous awards including Rural Business of the Year at the Amazon Growing Business Awards, a fantastic achievement for a family business.

After some tasty chicken sandwiches kindly supplied by Aldi we were guided round the distribution centre where we witnessed thousands of boxes and palletised goods all under one roof, truly amazing! These goods are in temporary storage ready to be re-distributed within a few hours. The distribution centre at Atherstone sees on average of 160 wagons a day delivering out to 103 Aldi stores. We ventured into the freezer room where frozen produce is stored prior to dispatch, however we weren’t in there very long as it was -13°C! Seeing the huge scale of the business was fascinating. Everything was organised with quality control checking items on arrival. Health and safety was paramount with safe walkway aisles painted on the ground and hi-viz clothing etc. The use of modern technology is used such as bar code scanners for stockists, fingerprint recognition for employees clocking in and out and electronic fork lift trucks. All of this and more ensures Aldi are a very efficient business whilst also striving to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

On returning back to the conference room, Michael Moniz from Kantar, a research, data and insight company voiced some interesting facts about the poultry meat and egg industry. UK consumers spent over 2.3 billion pounds on fresh poultry last year. In his opinion he thought the increase of poultry meat sales was partly due to social media with quick and simple recipes people can follow at home. This is called ‘scratch cooking’. It was interesting to hear facts about consumer trends and behaviours. To finish the day the PIP group had chance to pose questions to Aldi and their suppliers. I asked, “What is Aldi’s commitment to the Red Tractor brand?” Laura from Aldi answered: “We are fully committed to Red Tractor and believe it is one of the best assurance schemes out there. We will be backing Red Tractor produce for the foreseeable future”. This was great to hear and in my opinion many other supermarkets need to follow suit.

Overall it was a very enjoyable, informative and educational visit. Thank you Aldi and partners. Keep 'Championing Great British Quality!’



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