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Confessions of a retailer: Aldi UK

Aldi UK buying director Tom Bradley on the supermarket’s in­-house spirits offering and demand for value.

Tom Bradley, buying director at Aldi UK

Where did your interest in spirits come from?

I have always had a keen interest in the drinks industry, keeping a close eye on the trends and demands of the spirits world in particular. This passion was furthered by my time spent as a buying director in Aldi’s Scottish office.

How long have you been working at Aldi?

I’ve been with Aldi for seven years having worked in several areas of the business. In 2016 I moved to our Scottish buying team, where I was responsible for sourcing a variety of products, including regional beers and spirits. In February 2018 I started to buy spirits for the entire UK business.

How important are spirits to Aldi’s portfolio?

Spirits are a key category in our portfolio. Our customers’ demand for spirits is always growing, so we are always working to evolve our offering.

How do you select the products you stock?

We are constantly reviewing industry trends and insight, in order to work out what the next ‘big thing’ is going to be. We work closely with some incredibly talented distilleries, which help us to bring new concepts to life. We also rigorously quality test our new and existing spirits against the rest of the market to ensure we have the best quality products available.

How would you describe your range of spirits?

Award­-winning. In 2017, we took home more than 60 accolades for our spirits range, and so far this year we’ve already been awarded 23 medals for our products, such as our Topaz Blue Premium Gin. We have a concise yet diverse core collection, which is supplemented throughout the year with seasonal additions, such as our premium Christmas range.

Why has Aldi done very well in international spirits competitions?

We are incredibly passionate about ensuring our products are of the highest quality, and this level of quality ultimately delivers the extraordinary value we offer our customers. We would not put a product forward for an award if we didn’t believe in its quality and it’s great to see that the judges agree.

Are there any spirit products you wish you were able to stock?

As a buyer it’s easy to get distracted and carried away with what is out there – the spirits world is full of very exciting distractions. When choosing what goes onto our shelves we have to ensure that what we stock is what the Aldi customer wants. Our biggest excitement so far this year was launching our Aperini Italian Apéritif.

Are local and regional spirits important to Aldi’s portfolio?

Regional spirits are imperative to Aldi. One of my proudest innovations so far has been the launch of our Scottish Gin Festival, where I had the privilege of working alongside a number of small craft distillers, helping to support local businesses and giving them an excellent platform to showcase their products.

What trends have you noticed in spirits sales?

The gin bubble is yet to burst and we are still seeing a strong increase in sales in our gin range. We’re excited to launch our National Gin Festival in July, featuring a range of gins from around the world. Aside from gin, rum and whisky both continue to be an increasing area of growth with customers.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working at Aldi?

Seeing a product through from an initial concept to landing on a shelf. There is no better feeling than walking into a store and seeing a bottle on sale that only a couple of months ago was simply an idea.

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