30 November 2017

Santorini’s churches point to the
difference between Aldi and Lidl

The image of Santorini that Aldi uses on their supermarket shelves … a stark contrast with their rivals Lidl (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

It is said that wherever Aldi goes, Lidl follows, and that wherever Lidl goes, Aldi is sure to follow.

So often I find it difficult to figure out which is which that I cannot figure out whether I am Aldied or Lidled.

But I have watched them follow each other as they open one supermarket after the other in similar venues, in Ireland, in England, and in Greece. Now I see that they are taking their shared competitive streak to the US.

The difference between the two, and the experience many of us have shared when we go shopping in these two German-based supermarkets is told by my former Irish Times colleague Mickey McConnell in The Ballad of Lidl & Aldi, recorded recently in John B Keane’s Bar in Listowel, Co Kerry:

But there is one place Aldi is not following Lidl – in their depictions of Santorini, which is unrivalled as the most photographed island in Greece and is the face of Greece to the rest of the world.

The island’s cubist white buildings, its pastel coloured doors and windows and the blue domes of its churches are the basic ingredients of picture-postcard Greece. Those blue domes complement the blue skies and blue seas that decorate so many postcards, calendars, coasters, fridge magnets and CDs that tourists bring home with them.

They are sometimes the first images that captivate potential visitors when they are dreaming about and planning a package holiday in Greece. And when those tourists return home, these calendars and posters decorate their homes as a reminder to return again.

In the rectory in Askeaton, I have a number of prints of photographs by Georges Meis, whose work in Santorini is celebrated in so many of those calendars, posters and coffee table books.

In Dublin, I have prints of two paintings by the artist Manolis Sivridakis that continue to remind me of all the sounds, sights, tastes, smells and thoughts of a sunny Sunday afternoon in Santorini almost 30 years ago.

The other ways lingering memories of a summer holiday on a Greek island holiday are brought back to life for wistful tourists include listening to those CDs – and finding Greek food on the supermarket shelves.

I have a small block of Feta cheese from Greece in the fridge in the Rectory at the moment. I say at the moment, because now that I have found it it’s not going to stay there for very long.

This is not Greek-style Feta, as you get in many supermarkets, but real Greek Feta, produced in Greece, using sheep and goat’s milk, under the Emporium brand name.

The label shows a blue domed church in Santorini, with the crater of the volcano and the blue Greek sea and sky in the background.

But there is something that makes this label very different from the labels in the Lidl Eridanous range.

Churches and domes without crosses ... airbrushed images of Santorini seen recently on my kitchen shelves and in my fridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Eridanous range in Lidl is also packaged and marketed with those white cubist buildings and blue domes that instantly transport you back from the grey days of winter in Ireland to the blue-and-white days of summer in Greece.

Prominent in all of those packaging images – on tins, bags and cardboard packages – is the dome of the Anastasis Church, the most photographed church and the most photographed building on the island of Santorini.

The problem, though, is that Lidl airbrushed the cross from the dome of the church. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Lidl had eliminated all crosses and transformed the landscape of Santorini on its packaging, claiming it wants to remain ‘religiously neutral.’ Greek history, culture and landscape had been airbrushed away by the very people who claim they are marketing a taste of authentic Greek living.

Unlike Lidl, however, Aldi has kept the cross on the dome of the church in Santorini in its packaging and labelling of Greek food in the Emporium range.

The image of Santorini that Lidl does not want you to see on their supermarket shelves

Despite an outcry a few months ago, the Eridanous range, including Greek olive oil, honey, moussaka, honey, yogurt, gyros, butter beans and pastry swirls, remains on shelves in Lidl outlets in Ireland in their photo-shopped packaging.

And so, I now know the difference between Aldi and Lidl and the differences between their branding of Greek foods.

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