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EasyJet founder to challenge Aldi, Lidl in UK food market

The founder of budget airline EasyJet Stelios Haji-Ioannou has announced plans to set up a chain of supermarkets in the UK. The effort is aimed at stealing market share from growing German budget grocers Aldi and Lidl.

Britain's new low-cost retail business would be named EasyFoodstore and would start off with one supermarket in South London, Cypriot billionaire investor Stelios Haji-Ioannou said Sunday.

The endeavor would be funded through his EasyGroup private investment vehicle, the founder of UK-based budget airline EasyJet said, adding that the project was a low risk experiment.

"There is a gap in the food retail market - a niche below some of the current budget operators such as Aldi and Lidl," Stelios said in a statement.

Germany-based budget food giants Aldi and Lidl have been hugely successful in Britain in recent years, growing well ahead of the market average.

Although ranked only in 7th and 8th place in the UK food market, they've boosted their market shares to 3.1 percent and 3.6 percent respectively this year, while the shares of most of their rivals have dipped.

EasyGroup chairman Haji-Ioannou said EasyFoodstore would offer basic no-name groceries as well as packet and tinned foods at lower prices than at Lidl and Aldi.

The supermarket chain could be expanded from 2014, he added.

Haji-Ioannou, who is listed by Forbes Magazine as the third wealthiest Cypriot billionaire, was Chief Executive of budget airline EasyJet until 2010. Since then he's been operating his "easy" brand in the travel and leisure business.

uhe/rg (Reuters, AFP)