Market Traders vs Lidl: Who offers the best value?

Leicester Mercury writer Becky Jones put the local market traders to the test.


"The familiar calls of the traders coupled with the sweet and earthy smells of the fresh fruit and vegetables means there's only one place in Leicester that you can be: at the heart of Leicester Market," she wrote.


"A hive of activity in the city centre, the market - which has been around for more than 700 years - is actually Europe’s largest covered market. Pretty impressive, hey?


"You can find everything from mobile phone cases to thermal long johns, along with an array of fruit and vegetables.


"I recently visited with a challenge in mind: to find out whether a box of fruit from Leicester Market is better value than a box of fruit from the Lidl - the supermarket recently crowned by Which? as the UK's cheapest."


So, how did I get on?


"There’s plenty of stalls to choose from, but having clocked the array of fresh-looking fruit at seemingly cheap prices, and been given a welcoming smile by one of the stall holders, I headed over to the Reid family's fruit and veg stall.

"The Reids have been selling fruit and veg on the market for 105 years, and the stall is now run by the fifth generation of the family. "The fruit and veg is bought each morning from the wholesale market at Freemens Common, with produce coming from Britain as well as countries around the world, from Chile to Australia.

"I told one of the friendly members of staff that I was after a selection of fruit and he suggested putting together one of their popular boxes for £10.

"It sounded good to me, and he talked me through it as he packed a cardboard box full of lovely, colourful fruit.

"In the end, the selection comprised three punnets of strawberries (£1) although he divided them between two to make room in the box, a punnet of red grapes and a punnet of green grapes (50p for both) extra large punnet of blueberries (£1) six Conference pears (£1) 12 Santa Rosa plums (£1) six Pink Lady apples (£1) six peaches (£1) 12 satsumas (£1) six oranges (£1) a bunch of eight bananas (£1).

"It actually came to £9.50, and I was amazed at just how much fruit I got for that amount. The guys even offered to carry it to my car for me, which was a kind gesture, but I decided to give it a try. I’ve been continuing with my Joe Wicks workouts, so I reckoned my muscles could handle it!

"The peaches were far and away my favourite part, being plump, sweet and juicy. The large, sweet grapes were impressive too, as were the delicious strawberries.

"Blueberries are a favourite of my eldest son, and this generously sized punnet was full of large, tasty berries, with just the odd squashed one.

The juicy, refreshing oranges and satsumas were enjoyed by my boys, as were the crisp Pink Lady apples.

"The bananas were large and tasty and the pears were lovely and juicy.

"The only part that we didn't like were the plums, which had very little flavour.

"Overall though, this was a tasty box of fruit, and one thing that was really good about the market box was that there was only a small amount of plastic packaging involved - that being the punnets in which the strawberries and blueberries were presented.

"The following week, having polished off the market fruit, I headed to Lidl in South Wigston to purchase a box of fruit as similar as possible to the one I had got from the market.

"So, I purchased three punnets of strawberries (£1.59 each) a punnet of white grapes and a punnet of red grapes (£1.39 each) a punnet of blueberries (£2.39) four Conference pears (£1.39) nine Santa Rosa plums (74p) six Pink Lady apples (£1.89) six peaches (95p) 12 satsumas (95p) four oranges (£1.55) and a bunch of eight bananas (£1.14).

"That little lot came to a grand total of £18.55 - so almost twice what I paid at the market. I expected the cost to be a bit higher than the market but I was surprised the difference was quite so much, especially when I actually got a little bit less.

"One thing that was immediately apparent when looking at the supermarket fruit compared to the market fruit was the amount of packaging. Whilst the plastic punnets are recyclable, the film lids and nets are not - so that's quite a bit of waste.

"I should point out that there was some loose fruit available at Lidl - just not the specific things I was looking for, other than the bananas.

"The strawberries were definitely the worst bit of the bunch. All of the punnets on the shelf had a best before date of the following day, so there was no option to pick the freshest ones. They looked a bit bruised when I bought them but tasted reasonable, being nice and sweet. However, by the next day, they looked quite unappealing.

"The plums were lovely - really flavoursome and juicy, so much better than those from the market. The peaches weren't immediately ripe, but after a couple of days, these too were sweet and juicy. Both the red and green grapes were smaller than those from the market, but tasted just as good, as did the juicy satsumas and oranges.

"The pears, though described as 'ripe and ready' on the packaging, were quite hard initially, but after a couple of days were ripe enough to enjoy. It was a similar story with the bananas, in that they took a couple of days to ripen, but were enjoyable when they had done so."

Verdict

"In terms of the taste and freshness of the fruit, there were elements of the market box that were better and elements of the supermarket box that were better.

"The market wins when it comes to eco-friendly credentials, with a lot less packaging used, and the cost was also a lot lower than at the supermarket.

"The checkout operator at Lidl was friendly, but my shopping did get sent along the conveyor belt at the rate of knots! I experienced a different level of service at Leicester Market, with the guys carefully packing the fruit box, offering to carry it back to my car, and indulging in a bit of banter.

"Taking everything into account, I reckon that overall, Leicester Market comes out on top. Here's to another 700 years of bargain blueberries and cut-price clementines!"

Source: Leicester Mercury