Lidl cuts first prices in grocery store wine war

grocery store wine war
Will Lidl sell these kinds of wines at these prices in the U.S.?

German discounter selling “$12 quality” Prosecco for $9

Those of you who live in Virginia and the Carolinas can see first-hand whether Lidl, the German discount grocer, is serious about changing the way grocery store wine is sold in the U.S. One of its grand opening specials: An award-winning Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, for $9 – a wine the chain claims is comparable to the best-selling Prosecco in the U.S., E&J Gallo’s La Marca.

Welcome to the U.S.’ grocery store wine war.

Said Lidl spokesman Will Harwood, whose company plans to open 100 stores along the East Coast in the next year: “Wine will be a very important category for us, and we’re very excited about what it can do for us.”

In this, Lidl’s selection will be more reminiscent of what its does in its European stores than what arch-rival Aldi has done in the U.S., where the latter has stuck with less expensive, but still very ordinary wines like Winking Owl. In the U.K., where wine plays a key role in product assortment, Nielsen says Aldi and Lidl controlled 13.3 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2017.

These wines, including a $7 Chilean malbec, will be exclusive to Lidl, just as you can only buy Two-buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s (though hopefully the Lidl wines will be of a much higher quality). Two questions remain, though: First, can Lidl convince consumers to buy its wines, which they have never heard of, in the same way they buy little known wine from Trader Joe’s and Costco? Second, will Lidl’s effort force the rest of the grocery store business to respond with better prices and higher quality wine?

The grocery store analysts I talked to were skeptical about the first, given that consumers don’t know what Lidl is and have no reason to trust it. But we’re already seeing other grocers react to the second, they said, and those grocers are worried. Hence efforts by Walmart and Target to beef up their wine selections. Or, as one consultant told me: “There are a lot of national and large regional food retailers who will be ground down by Aldi, Lidi, Amazon and Trader Joe’s, one store at a time until the whole thing implodes.”

I’ve talked to Harwood several times over the past couple of months, and he says he wants me to try the Lidl wines. I’m looking forward to the opportunity, probably later this summer, and will report back when I do.