ALDI’s about-face

Store Brands Editor-in-Chief Lawrence Aylward says grocer has gained the respect of shoppers from all demographics, even those who regard themselves as high-falutin’. Listen to his podcast.


About 10 years ago my wife Mindy returned from a shopping trip at ALDI with some neighborhood scuttlebutt, in addition to bringing home a few basic food and beverage items from the grocer. My wife had seen an acquaintance from our town at ALDI — someone she never expected to see shopping at a deep-discount retailer.

Let’s just say the person my wife saw at ALDI is a bit on the hoity-toity side. She’s the kind of person who is happy to pay more for groceries at some fancy food market — even $5 for a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese — just to tell others she purchased the products there.

My wife said this person appeared startled upon being seen and avoided making eye contact. Clearly, this person felt that if word got out in her social circles that she was shopping at ALDI, then her well-heeled image would take a hit.

My, how times have changed. Nowadays, most people don’t have a problem being seen at ALDI, even the snooty folks.

ALDI’s reputation has done a 180 in the past five years. And that’s not to say that ALDI’s rep was bad before. ALDI was what it was, and it is what it is now. Ten years ago, ALDI offered a slew of so-so private branded products that only differentiated on price when compared to national brands. That’s what ALDI was known for because that’s what ALDI wanted to be known for.

Today, ALDI still offers predominantly private brands but some of them, like liveGfree, SimplyNature and Specially Selected, feature products that are innovative and premium. While the products are inexpensive, they aren’t dirt-cheap. There’s a difference. Many of today’s ALDI products offer a tremendous value, as in premium products at excellent prices.

My wife and I are longtime ALDI shoppers. When we began shopping there more than 10 years ago, we did so for its low prices. While we found ALDI’s product selection to be fairly basic with brands we weren’t familiar, we were satisfied — although there were some products the retailer offered that we simply didn’t trust.

But we are wowed at what ALDI has become. A new ALDI, which is part of the retailer’s massive $5 billion expansion, recently opened in our town, so now we have two stores. And the old store recently underwent a renovation to make it larger, which is also part of ALDI’S business strategy to become one of the nation’s go-to grocers. Both stores have many more products, especially in the fresh section. And many of the products are simply sensational. There are no products that I wouldn’t trust to buy and try.

The “new” ALDI is not just a deep discounter to me. I don’t just go there to save money. If I want good meat products, I’ll shop at ALDI. If I want some premium and on-trend sauces and dips, I’ll shop at ALDI.

ALDI has gained the respect of shoppers from all demographics, even those who regard themselves as high-falutin’.

Today, I’m sure our cavalier acquaintance has no problem being seen shopping at ALDI. In fact, she is probably proud. She should be.