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10 surprises you probably didn’t know about Aldi

Theo Thimou March 24, 2017
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If you're into cheap groceries, you've got to know about Aldi! This hard-discount grocery chain, which started in Germany, has more than 1,500 stores across 33 states here at home and is headquartered in Batavia, Ill.

Read on for some well-known and some obscure facts about the beloved supermarket.

Read more: Expensive 'natural' cleaners contain same key ingredients as cheaper products

Aldi boasts savings of 50% on groceries vs. competitors

The most common claim you see is that switching to ALDI-exclusive brands saves you up to 50% over national brands. (Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national competitors.)

Our own contributor Andy Prescott crunched the numbers and found it's more like 40% when you're talking about vs. name brands, but only 20% when you're talking about vs. Walmart store brands. That's cheap either way!

Aldi has experimented with fresh bread vending in Europe

A few years ago, there was a report that German bakers were up in arms because Aldi was using miniature ovens that are roughly the size of a vending machine to bake fresh bread instantly at the push of a button.

Aldi's mini-ovens reportedly charged 15 cents per loaf and delivered the bread in under two seconds! The bakers were alleging that there's no way the bread could be truly baked fresh on the spot. "We are not against Aldi selling bread," the leader of a baker's trade organization told The Wall Street Journal. "But it's unfair for them to say that it's somehow better or different than the packaged stuff they sell on their shelves."

Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding: One baker interviewed by The Wall Street Journal even conceded that the Aldi vending machine bread was extremely tasty!

You can now use a credit card at Aldi

Aldi has long been a hold-out in the grocery world because of its limited payment options. Many Aldi locations only took cash, while others might accept select debit cards. But all stores had one firm rule: No credit cards! That changed earlier this month to make the shopping experience more easily accessible to more people. Store will now accept all Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express cards.

The costs of credit card processing won't raise Aldi's famously low prices

For those of you who worry that accepting credit cards will drive Aldi's prices up, fear not! "Aldi is dedicated to keeping customers’ grocery carts full and their wallets even fuller," CEO Jason Hart said in a press release. "That’s why the acceptance of credit cards will have no impact on the price customers pay for the Aldi products they love."

Aldi is undertaking a big move toward organics

The store has already removed artificial growth hormones from its milk. Up next is removing the same from its yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and other dairy products. There's also an ongoing effort to ramp up the presence of its Never Any! brand of meats, which contains no added antibiotics, hormones, animal by-products or other additives.

You can also get fancy-pants food at Aldi

Aldi has been steadily rolling out "fancier" foods despite its reputation as a place to get no-frills groceries at rock-bottom prices, according to Business Insider. Look for artisanal cheeses, smoked salmon, quinoa and organic coconut oil, to name a few items.

Aldi has a track record of removing MSG and fake colors

At the end of last year, Aldi completed its efforts to remove certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and added monosodium glutamate (MSG) from their private label goods. The cheap grocer had already introduced its SimplyNature line of products several years ago, which bars 125 of the most egregious ingredients, and it also offers a gluten-free line called liveGfree.

"Our decision to remove these ingredients from all of our exclusive brand foods delivers on our ongoing commitment to meet the evolving preferences of our customers," CEO Jason Hart said in a press release. "Since more than 90% of the products we sell are under our exclusive brands, eliminating these ingredients will have a real impact on the over 30 million people who shop in our stores."

Bring your own bag, but plan to rent a cart

The store does have grocery bags for sale, but you may want to bring your own to save even more money. Or an even better way to save money is to use the discarded boxes in the store that the food products come in. Just grab one or two and pack your groceries!

Also, be sure you have a quarter on hand when you go to Aldi. You'll have to put a 25-cent deposit in the cart, which you get back when you return it to the corral. That reduces the cost of having to pay somebody to round up carts in the parking lot and it reduces accidental dents to your car when carts roll around the parking lot.

Aldi is not immune to the occasional online coupon scam

Aldi is just one of several grocers to be hit by an online coupon voucher scam. A scam circulating on Facebook tries to get you to share and comment on what appears to be a link to a "coupon" offering $100 off a bill of $120. But after sharing and commenting, all you get is offers to sign up for credit cards and other subscriptions.

Aldi's dominance shapes the strategy of its competitors

Aldi has been a formidable foe to Walmart. In fact, the supercenter giant tried to go into Aldi's native Germany and was beaten severely on the sales front. Walmart is usually 15-20% cheaper than a traditional supermarket, but it still has been no competition for Aldi either at home or abroad.

Aldi's dominance has led Walmart to experiment with the smaller format Neighborhood Market concept in hundreds of locations across the United States. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?!

Read more: 10 money-saving secrets you don't know about Costco

How shopping at more than one store will save you money

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Theo Thimou is director of content for ClarkHoward.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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