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Monday
Nov122018

Lidl to open third New Jersey supermarket Nov. 14 in Union 

Uniformity in sleek architecture is a big part of brand identity for Lidl supermarkets. The Hazlet store shown is expected to open Nov. 28 and will be the fourth to open in New Jersey. The state's first Lidl store opened in Vineland in fall of 2017.When the Lidl store on the westbound side of Route 22 in Union opens this Wednesday, it will be the German supermarket chain's third New Jersey location. 

To give our readers a preview of what's to come, we traveled to the Eatontown Lidl last week to see exactly what's beneath the sloping roof and behind the glass facade of this company's sleek architectural branding. 

We love Lidl's exterior design and the abundance of natural light from all the windows. We found surprisingly low food prices, many more famliar brands than one typically finds at Aldi, unusual imports, as well as meats and other products sourced in the U.S. (One example was an organic vinegar-based "shrub" soda from North Carolina in flavors like peach-ginger-cinnamon and watermelon-basil). There were toys, tools and Christmas decorations. Clothing, bundled or thinly boxed for bins, included $5.99 dresses and $24.99 men's ski jackets. 

But this isn't like a Target or a Walmart. Lidl stores are much smaller, usually about 20,000 square feet (compared to 60,000 square feet for the nearby Union ShopRite) with a tighter mix of products.  

Bright lights, kids carts and lots of signage with American appeal at the German-run Lidl supermarket in Eatontown An aisle at Lidl looks a lot like those at Aldi store, with products in cut open shipping boxes placed on shelves to save time. .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lidl, which has U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Va., had the smart strategy of opening in time for peak food shopping season in the U.S.  -- the weeks before Thanksgiving and other feast-driven winter holidays. The first New Jersey Lidl store opened in Vineland about this time last year, just a few months after the first 20 U.S. Lidl stores opened in Virginia and the Carolinas. A fourth New Jersey store, on northbound Route 35 in Hazlet, is expected to open Nov. 28.

Hazlet will be the setting for a thrilling head-to-head competition with Lidl's older German rival, Aldi, which already has a strong foothold among bargain-hunters in these parts. Aldi has an old model store nearby on northbound Route 35, but is rushing to complete and open up one of its updated store models across the highway in a section of a shuttered Pathmark store.

The Union store, at 2375 U.S. 22, is just steps away from the newer Union ShopRite, as well as a Walmart selling groceries and much more on the opposite side of the highway. Customers can only benefit from this, as the larger stores will likely respond with even more competitive pricing. Both have the benefit of longer hours than Lidl, which is staying open until at least 10 p.m. for the holidays  

In recent years, Aldi has been expanding in the U.S. with modernized new stores while renovating existing locations. With competition from Lidl, it will be fun to observe if and how Aldi will change. Perhaps Lidl's 8 a.m. opening time will get Aldi to push up its inconvenient 9 a.m. opening. Maybe they'll match lower prices. Lidl's shopping carts also are free of the Aldi deposit locks that return your quarter when a cart is relinked to those in the corral.

Lidl, on the other hand, has taken many pages from Aldi's playbook. Both stores follow the common European practice of expecting customers to bring or buy shopping bags. At the Eatontown Lidl, empty shipping boxes were tossed in a tall crate. It's a sight familiar to Aldi shoppers who know the boxes are available to tote out the groceries of those who opt not to bring or buy bags.

Lidl also offers many common products at the exact size of Aldi products, but usually at a lower price. Aldi, which conducts rigorous testing on its products, has a won over many customers through its association with Trader Joe's, and its product guarantees. With Aldi's Twice as Nice Guarantee, save your receipt and you can get another product to replace one you don't like AND get your money back, too.

The Lidl Love It Guarantee has a similar promise, and it's stamped on many products, including the four-roll packs of two-ply toilet tissue made of recycled paper that sell for .49 cents. It has exactly the same number of sheets as Aldi's two-ply recycled tissue that sells for .59 cents a four-roll pack. 

     

There's often something baking at Lidl in Eatontown. Hallo, Lidl Bakery

In Eatontown, Lidl (pronounced lee-dul) was still welcoming first-time customers after having opened there on Oct. 31.

A friend who lives in the area said Lidl is what you might get if Wegmans and Aldi had a baby.

Umm, not quite.

While there are many features that will be familiar to Aldi shoppers, Lidl could only be considered similar to Wegmans in that the store's bakery employees can be seen baking and fiinishing goods onsite.

In Eatontown, baked goods were tempting (and health-threatening) with significant "must buy two" discounts, but we found the appeal of baked goods from their "authentic European recipes" to be quite uneven.

Lidl does a good job with its pastries. While not bursting with real butter flavor, the croissants had the pleasing flaky quality that comes from the right amount of fat. While they are said to be made with butter, that flavor was not detectable. Nevertheless, these are far superior to what many supermarkets pass off as croissants -- including those sold in packages at Trader Joe's stores (which are owned by the same Albrecht family members that operate more than 10,000 Aldi stores in 20 countries worldwide).

Lidl's maple pecan pastries, which appear to be made from the croissant dough, were a delight. A whiff of artificial maple flavor was offset by the crunch of toasted pecans and crisp pastry. Still, all the Lidl pastries we tried had an unsettling trait, and that was the very subtle -- as in only the most sensitive among us would notice it -- tacky mouth-feel that comes from the use of a certain type of fat. Note: I don't know what type because I was busy seeing the store, and I failed to check the ingredients binder that was on a bakery shelf.          

The glazed "donuts" were truly disappointing -- dense and bready instead of being the light, yeasty treats one expects with glazed raised. The cookies, including sugar, oatmeal and chocolate chip, were large with the irregular shapes of dough scooped by hand for baking. Unfortunately, their flavor did not exceed that of cookies offered by most supermarket bakeries (or even packaged cookies in some cases).

Supermarket bakeries often rely on refrigerated or frozen dough or packaged mixes, and they usually taste like it. Kings, Whole Foods and Wegmans are definitely the stand-outs when it comes to the flavor of their bakery goods.

Maple-pecan pastriesThere are only so many baked goods one can safely eat in a week, and so our bread-buying stopped with the healthful-looking dark, seeded triangular bread called protein rolls. For Lidl's considerable number of bakery loaves, each store has a cut-it-yourself machine that offers custom slicing. The sandwich-size protein rolls were good for a tuna, but their thickness meant more mayo was needed to avoid a dry lunch. Lidl also had baguettes, loaves of ciabatta, brioche and an intriguing German sourdough that will be on the must-buy list once the Union store opens. And we can't forget to mention the German-style pretzels and pretzel rolls.

Speaking of must buy, it might be a good idea for a single person to have a bakery buddy for any trip to Lidl. Every baked good in the case was discounted based on buying two. If you can't resist paying .52 cents each for two cookies as opposed to .69 cents for one, take a friend along, or plan to split up the bounty. Otherwise, it's how they get you, as one of my friends always says.  

 Not the expected German food imports  

Pickles are among products from Germany at Lidl in EatontownAs with Aldi, shoppers can expect to find products from a variety of countries coming in at various times. At Eatontown Lidl, we found Dijon mustard from France, okra with tomato slice (yes, one tomato slice) from Turkey, stroopwafels from the Netherlands. There were numerous wooden toys (all made in China) with a range of prices starting at $1.99 for puzzles and going up to $24.99 for a toddler's horse scooter.

For the holidays, boxes were filled with .99 cents rolls of gift wrap and stacked with a wide selection of Lidl's Favorina brand cookies, including chocolate-covered German pfeffernusse and lebkuchen. Other products of Germany were not what one would expect: frozen falafels and little .99 cents bags of 1001 Delights spices for North African cooking, including ras al hanout, corriander and seasoning blends for tagines and couscous.

Our art director, who observed that Aldi has superior design and graphics for its food packaging, still fell for Lidl's German-style dill pickles despite the look of their label. A product of Germany, these were a crisp cross between sweet and dill pickle flavors, he said.  

 

 

 Lower prices than Aldi?

In the produce section, Lidl's fall squash (including butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash) were .99 cents per pound. Aldi and many area produce stores (Fig Tree Market) had them at 79 cents a pound. (Yes, I have the bargain hunter's uncanny ability to memorize prices). Beyond the produce aisle, we compared prices at Lidl to those at Aldi on a few products. Lidl came in lower in many cases.

Cheese: Both Aldi and Lidl sell a variety of 8-ounce blocks of cheese at prices lower than any area supermarket. The price of these cheeses was .24 cents lower at Lidl.

Sliced bread: Aldi has 24-ounce loaves of 100 percent whole wheat bread and 12-grain bread. Lidl has 24-ounce loaves of 100 percent whole wheat bread and 12-grain bread. At Lidl, the loaves came in at .24 cents less. We like Aldi's 12-grain bread, which has 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugars, 1.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per slice. Lidl's 12-grain slices are also 100 calories but have 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugars. The Lidl slices are wider and shorter and a bit harder to fit in the toaster. The flavor and quality are comparable, however.  

Organic milk: The price matched on half gallons of organic milk at Aldi and Lidl. 

Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for the deep dive! I can't wait for the Union Lidl to open. I will keep an eye out for the maple-pecan croissants.

November 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSupermarket fan

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