I was introduced to Aldi by my mother-in-law who was an avid Aldi shopper from the moment Aldi arrived in our area. She was always talking about shopping there and the great deals she found. When I finally decided to check out this grocery story she was always talking about I discovered that Aldi is not your average grocery store. It looks different, it feels different and prices are low. I was a fan.
Then Aldi asked me to do something special. Aldi invited me to visit headquarters outside of Chicago as its guest to discover what makes Aldi unique. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But during my visit, I learned more than I expected and went from fan to super fan. There are so many things at work behind the scenes at Aldi that are just plain cool. I am so excited about everything I learned on my trip that I wanted to share some of the top reasons I am now an Aldi lifer.
10 Reasons You Should Shop At Aldi
History of Success
Aldi has been in the Orlando area for less than five years, so I incorrectly assumed that it was a relatively new company. Not at all. Originally founded in Germany in the ’60s, Aldi has been in the U.S. for more than 30 years. With more than 1,000 stores across the U.S. in 31 states, Aldi’s current growth includes opening approximately 50 new stores per year with continued plans to bring Aldi to new states. Oh and did you know that Aldi is now owned by the same company that owns Whole Foods and Trader Joes?
Organic is Coming
This fall Aldi will introduce its new line Simply Nature which offers organic, gluten-free and natural products. I have to tell you that of all of the things I learned about Aldi, this is probably my favorite. Aldi plans to roll out the new line September 2013 in select stores, and by January 2014 it is expected that all Aldi stores will carry Simply Nature products. The organic line will also include a line of organic produce, as available in individual markets, by 2014.
One of the misconceptions many people have about Aldi is that the products are not made with quality ingredients. If you have never been into Aldi, you might be surprised to look around and not find your favorite brands. Approximately 90% of the products carried in Aldi stores are Aldi’s brands. That’s one of the ways Aldi keeps prices low. But just because the products are not brand names and are low priced, that doesn’t mean they are made with cheap ingredients. In fact, Aldi prides itself on creating its brands as close to name-brand products as possible. Savings don’t come from lesser ingredients, they come from other places — read on to learn where.
Products Pass The Taste Test
On my visit, I participated in a blind taste test of approximately a dozen products matching name brands with Aldi’s brand. I tasted orange juice, yogurt, cereal, cheese, crackers, soy milk, wine, guacamole and more. Without knowing which was which, sometimes our group selected the Aldi brand as our favorite, some times the name brand and sometimes no one could tell a difference. We learned that when Aldi decides to carry a new product, it undergoes extensive testing by Aldi chefs to select the final product — taste and quality ingredients are extremely important. Although the products didn’t always match exactly, there wasn’t a single bad product we tried.
Because Aldi stores are also smaller than most traditional grocery stores (to help keep a low overhead), space is at a premium. Items chosen for space are the most popular items. But Aldi likes to change things up too, and that is done through weekly “Special Buys.” Special buys can literally be anything from seasonal items like kiddie sprinklers in the summer to gingerbread houses at Christmas (I have purchased both). Special buys are limited in quantity and availability, once they are gone, they are gone. Except sometimes items are so popular they eventually get their very permanent shelf space. (Pssst look for Simply Nature Special Buy this September.)
Barcodes, Barcodes, Barcodes
If you have ever shopped at Aldi you may or may not have noticed that products are covered in barcodes. I found products with as many as five barcodes and other products were the barcode took up the entire side of the product. Why so many? One of the ways Aldi keeps prices low is by keeping store employees to a minimum. With fewer employees than a traditional store, Aldi has to speed up the check out process. So Aldi covers products with barcodes so that however the product is slid across the scanner, the barcode is read. No searching for codes – they are all over the place. And man, those cashiers are lightning fast. (Tip – Aldi doesn’t accept credit cards, just debit and cash. Another cost-saving procedure.)
Minimum Employees, Maximum Pay
When you look around Aldi, you will find very few employees, and that is done on purpose. By streamlining processes (like check out), Aldi is able to cut down on the number of employees needed in each store. That said, employees at Aldi receive higher pay and more benefits than their counterparts at other grocery stores. In fact, even part-time employees are eligible for health benefits. Nice. Looking around Aldi you’ll notice that products are not taken out of boxes and placed on shelves, instead boxes are stacked and the front portion of the box removed so customers can remove items directly from the box. As boxes are emptied, all employees have to do is remove the boxes and open the next box. Less manual work, fewer employees needed.
Don’t Forget Your Quarter
While regular Aldi shoppers are familiar with the cart system, newbies are often find themselves staring at Aldi’s shopping carts in wonder. For those who don’t know, in order to use a cart, you must deposit $.25. When you return your cart, your quarter is returned. Why does Aldi do this? It’s simple, to cut costs. Not only does Aldi save money on shopping cart theft (it’s a real thing), but employees don’t have to waste time rounding up carts in the parking lot. Everyone returns their own cart. (And when someone doesn’t return a cart, fellow customers are happy to do so for them and their quarter.) Less wasted time, fewer employees, lower prices.
Aldi Was Green Before It Was Cool
Long before reusable totes were a popular method of going green, Aldi customers have been asked to bring their own bags. You won’t hear “Paper or plastic?” at checkout — they are not even options. What do you do if you forget your bags? No problem. You can buy one or, better yet, remember all those empty boxes that are removed as products are used? You are more than welcome to reuse an empty box to take home your purchases for free. (Of course, I hope you will remember to recycle your reused box at home.)
No Coupons, No Sales
For a deal hunter like me, one of the hardest things for me to get used to is that Aldi doesn’t accept coupons or run sales. Like ever. The price you see is the everyday low price, that’s it. It took some getting used to, but one of the things I have come to realize is that while the everyday price at Aldi might be higher than a sale stacked with coupons elsewhere, over all everything is less at Aldi. So if you look at your bill as a whole, you will save versus a traditional store, every time.
Shopping at Aldi definitely takes some getting used to at first because for most people it is a paradigm shift from what they are used to. But once you realize that the differences are all created with conscious effort to save money while delivering quality products you will begin to wonder why more stores don’t adopt Aldi practices. By lowering overhead, slashing advertising budgets and delivering their own labeled products, Aldi is able to consistently offer high-quality products with substantial savings passed onto the customer. And that’s something we are all searching for.