LONDON: Over half of UK households are now shopping at discount grocers such as Lidl or Aldi, according to new data from Kantar Worldpanel, as they attract a more upmarket shopper.

The research company's latest grocery share figures cover the 12 weeks to 8 December and showed that 50.1% of British households had been to a discount grocer in that time, up from 46.1% a year ago.

Ronny Gottschlich, the UK managing director of Lidl, said recently that the UK supermarket industry was entering a new era as he noted that 25% of its customers now came from the A and B socio-economic groups. These "Maidstone Mums" were no longer embarrassed to be seen there, he told the Sunday Telegraph.

"I think we are just seeing the early start of the process that people acknowledge and realise something that customers in other countries, like in France, like in Italy, like in Spain, have experienced many years ago really – that behind the system of a Lidl, there isn't any quality-saving," he said.

Gottschlich accepted that cost-conscious shoppers were initially being attracted by price but argued they would stay even when the economy recovered. And he expected the store's growth to get even stronger as these shoppers shared with friends and family.

Kantar noted that value continued to be a powerful incentive for the British shopper and highlighted the fact that Farmfoods, a Scottish frozen food supermarket, had grown its sales by 36.6% compared with last year.

At the top end of the market, the Waitrose chain was also growing strongly. It was the middle ground occupied by the "Big Four" – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons – that was losing share.

Gottschlich suggested that limited choice was also a factor in Lidl's success, as the retailer carried around 1,500 lines, including 330 branded ones, compared to the 15,000 available in a large Tesco store.

There is choice, he explained, but it was not "overwhelming".

Data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel, Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff