New Discount Grocery Chain in the U.K. Could Change the Way We Think of Grocery Shopping

February 14th 2016

Ingrid Holmquist

A British billionaire is addressing income inequality in the United Kingdom by starting a super-discount grocery business with a simple premise. In the process, he's disrupting the increasingly expensive supermarket business there and forcing traditional supermarkets to adapt.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou got rich when he founded EasyJet, a British discount airline. But even though he is now a billionaire, he still has a heart for the impoverished in his community.

Haji-Ioannou saw that London's unemployed and underemployed needed a less expensive way to meet an essential human need: putting food on the table. So he started a discount grocery business, called easyFoodstore, which offers cheap necessities to poor neighborhoods at a rock-bottom price.

EasyFoodstore's gimmick is simple: Nothing in the store costs more than 25p, or the equivalent of 35 cents U.S., through the month of February. Eventually, the price will rise to 50p, or 71 cents, Haji-Ioannou told Business Insider. The first easyFoodstore is up and running in West London's Park Royal neighborhood.


To keep costs down, the store doesn’t have any bells and whistles. It sports an easy design of bright orange, no-frills signage, and a no-cash policy, and it only carries essential foods, leaving out high-end brands.

“No expensive brands. Just food honestly priced” is the slogan for easyFoodstore.

Haji-Ioannou was inspired to start the discount business after learning about the growth of food banks and after seeing how much demand there was for food when he handed out 4,000 sandwiches to needy people in Cyprus through his Food From the Heart charity program, The Guardian reported. The charity program will cost this billionaire 1 million euros a year (that’s $1.12 million U.S.)

Discount groceries are not a new idea in the U.K. Two popular major chains, Aldi and Lidl, are discount grocery chains favored in poorer parts of the country.

But easyFoodstore takes the concept of “discount” to a whole new level. EasyFoodstore patron Clare Gaches, 44, bought a shopping bag full of 25 items for just 6.25 euros ($7.04 U.S.), The Independent reported.

If easyFoodstore is successful, it could say a lot about income disparity in the U.K. and could also demonstrate the need for such budget-conscious businesses. (There are signs this is already happening: Last week, easyFoodstore had to set a 10-item limit per customer to prevent the store from selling out prematurely.)

Not everyone welcomes Haji-Ioannou's innovative food store.

The CEO of Asda, the second-largest grocery chain in the U.K.,called easyFoodstore “the worst storm in retail history," Business Insider reported. Faced with the competition in the U.K.'s ultra-competitive grocery sector, big supermarkets have had to cut prices significantly and lay off workers to stay afloat, Business Insider said.

Big supermarkets could be in for more competition should the poor start to take greater advantage of this cheaper-than-cheap option to purchase groceries.

Haji-Ioannou offered a simple explanation on easyFoodstore's website for why he created the chain:

"This is another way the easy brand can serve the less well-off. Given my experience in distributing food for free in Greece and Cyprus, this is a more commercial attempt to sell basic food for 25p per item to those less well-off in the Park Royal area."