5 questions with Jason Hart, Aldi U.S. CEO
On Tuesday, Aldi announced 70 more stores to hit the U.S. this year, including a new market in Arizona, welcoming the retailer to its 37th state. The growth tipped the discount grocer passed more than 2,000 stores across the United States.
It’s big news to be growing at a time when some sectors of retail are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yet Aldi is moving forward, and maintaining its value promise. The retailer also announced that for the 10th year running it has been named the Value Leader in the Market Force Information Grocery Benchmark Study, a validation of its promise to keep prices low for consumers when in some cases prices have been rising.
Staying in the headlines, Aldi also made a statement around shopper and associate safety, when it announced it would be requiring masks to be worn in stores.
With all of this happening, Store Brands was able to grab Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart for five questions to go a little deeper on what it means to grow in today’s landscape and more.
Store Brands: Aldi's trajectory of growth is tremendous, what does it mean to the company to maintain such speed of growth during a time of uncertainty with the virus and its impact on retail and the economy?
Jason Hart: Opening new stores enables us to support more customers in more communities, which we're always proud to do, and especially during this time of uncertainty. We feel fortunate that the pandemic has not slowed our expansion plans and we credit our unique business model for that. Aldi remains on track to becoming the third-largest U.S. grocery retailer by store count by the end of 2022 and our pledge is to do everything in our power to continue to offer shoppers the lowest prices possible on the foods they want and need, and that’s a responsibility we do not take lightly.
SB: Along with this store growth, are there any big plans around the product assortment coming to stores, any trends in terms of what type of Aldi exclusives shoppers can expect to see?
JH: We work closely with our supply base to continue our focus on innovation and quality across the store. We’re always testing out new products via Aldi Finds, which are how we offer shoppers new and unexpected food, household, apparel and lifestyle products for a limited time. This offering enables customers to “vote” with their purchase, which gives us insight into what they like and what they’d like to see more of. It's one of the many ways we keep a pulse on consumer interests and shopping trends, and adjust our products accordingly.
SB: What impact does store growth have on Aldi's process of ramping up products, working with supplier partners — does it present new challenges, new products to fit new market tastes?
JH: Expanding our store count means deepening existing supplier relationships and establishing new ones, when needed. We have many suppliers that have grown together with Aldi over the past 40 years and we look for partners who are interested in growing with us. From coast to coast, we are always looking for new supplier partners who can help us meet our growth needs in support of our business expansion.
SB: The recent announcement of 10 straight years as being named the value leader in the Grocery Benchmark Study was impressive, but also in that study, it said that Aldi's exclusive store brand products were named "most preferred," discuss the importance of value and quality, how is that paramount to this growth trajectory?
JH: Customers have always counted on us for our low prices, and we’re thrilled to also be recognized as the nation’s most preferred private label brand. We find that many new customers who try Aldi products for the first time end up being lifelong loyalists of our brands. And as much as we are focused on keeping prices low, we will always have an unwavering commitment to quality.
SB: Lastly, what are you looking for from supplier partners in the private brand industry to help you along this growth path, any words of encouragement, key trends to look at going forward?
JH: Our suppliers play a critical role in the success of our organization. As we continue our relationships with our current supply base, and work to bring new suppliers into our business, our suppliers are true partners in terms of developing innovative products, removing costs from the supply chain, and keeping a consistent focus on quality to ensure our products always deliver the experience our customers expect. We partner with some of the best suppliers in the industry, who consistently deliver us industry-leading service. We are grateful to all of our partners, new and tenured, who have weathered these past few months of global uncertainty by our side with excellence.