US grocery sector in store for further hard discounter expansion

01 April 2019 Consulting.us

Hard discounters offer customers bulk food at low prices in an unassuming shopping environment. German firms Aldi and Lidl have considerable clout in Europe, and in recent years have globally expanded their store footprints. Aldi is well-positioned in the US, garnering high-level support from consumers, while Lidl, which entered in 2017, has quickly built a strong reputation. As the rollout of the discounters continues, local brands face stiff competition.

Competition among supermarkets has heated up in recent years as consumers increasingly sought out discounters and moved away from hyperstores. German discounters Aldi and Lidl in particular have asserted their dominance across global markets with the former opening of hundreds of new stores and the latter entering the US market in 2017.

New analysis by Bain & Company analyzes how far the rise of discounters has affected grocers in the US market. The report, titled "How US Grocers Are Standing Up to Europe’s Hard Discounters," is based on a survey of 17,400 consumers, among other data sources.

Hard discounters NPS

To better understand the impact of hard discounters Aldi and Lidl on the US market, the firm’s recent survey of consumers asked respondents about their grocery shopping habits using the Net Promoter Score function. The Net Promoter Score measures how likely it is that a consumer will recommend a product, service, or brand to friends and family. 

In terms of the regular grocery shopping trip, hard discounters have managed to top the market at 43 points, with supermarkets around seven points behind. Mass merchants have the lowest score in the category at around 20 points. For big stock-ups, hard discounters, with their large bulk offering and appeal, score 60 points – well above that of warehouse clubs (45) and supermarkets (38). The analysis shows that even for quick trips for a couple of items, hard discounters top the score at around 10, compared to six for supermarkets and negative scores for warehouse clubs and mass merchants. The only category in which the hard discounter segment performs relatively poorly is buying prepared foods for today – at 25 compared to 50 for warehouse clubs and 35 for supermarkets.

Aldi customer advocacy

Aldi, which has been in the US market since 1976, has resonated strongly with consumers, coming in the top three for NPS for consumer advocacy. The company has managed to increase its position on last year by nine points, arriving at 55 – 15 points behind the leader. Aldi was noted in particular for its delivery of “best everyday low prices” and “best value for the money.” Lidl, a relative newcomer to the market, has a middle-of-the-road score.

Consumer advocacy is crucial to success within grocery

The success of discounters generating high consumer advocacy scores, according to the Bain, mean they are likely to show strong performance in the future, The firm notes that promoters purchase more than twice as frequently as detractors, with 70% of promoters shopping two times a month or more compared to detractors at 32%. The firm also found that the average monthly amount spent among promoters is almost three times as high as detractors, at $111 against $39. Promoters additionally tend to be more loyal to their chosen company, netting 28% of the total wallet compared to 11% for detractors.

“Lidl and Aldi are just beginning to flex their competitive muscles,” Mikey Vu, a partner with Bain & Company’s Retail Practice and a coauthor of the report, said. “What we’re seeing is that US grocers can effectively stand up to these hard discounters, but that they need to remain vigilant and innovate in strategic areas to keep their edge.”


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