Everything you need to know about ALDI

Australian shoppers rate Aldi as the best value for money when buying groceries, according to Choice. Aussie consumers also believe Aldi has the worst choice of products compared to other supermarkets (they’re right — Aldi stocks just 2000 products compared to around 40,000 in other chains), and are the least likely store to have available staff on hand to help, according to the same poll.

Yet despite customer’s gripes with the store, Aldi is booming in Australia. It now has 540 stores, and last year its profits rose by 10 per cent to over $9billion. Their special buys, which are advertised in their weekly catalogue before being on shelves every Wednesday and Saturday, often have people queuing out of the door — including during at the start of the coronavirus outbreak when shoppers were packed together, forcing the shop to implement social distancing measures.

Aldi customers in a shopping centre at the Maroubra Junction in Sydney, Australia, 19 July 2015.
Aussie shoppers rate ALDI as the best value for money. Photo: Getty Images.

So, what is it about the German-owned store that has people queuing out the door and scrambling around for bargains? We take a look at the store’s history, it’s best-selling products and the cult following it’s gained:

When was Aldi founded?

The discount grocery store was founded by German brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht in 1946 when they took over their mum’s local shop. By 1950 they owned 13 stores. In 1960, when they owned 300 stores across Germany, they had an argument about whether they should stock cigarettes, and ended up splitting the company in two; Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud.

The brothers ended up solving their dispute but the companies have remained financially and legally separate, even though they managed them jointly. In 1967 they opened their first stores in Europe. The brothers retired in 1993, but Aldi Nord is still run by their family. Today the Aldi group own 10,000 stores worldwide.

Aldi customers Hannah Walker (26) and Mike Weekes (29) stand at the Opera House in Sydney, Australia, 19 July 2015.
The German retailer arrived down under in 2001. Photo: Getty Images.

When did Aldi come to Australia?

The first store came to Sydney in 2001. By 2004 there were 54 stores across the Eastern states, and today there are ten times that number across Australia.

Can I return items to Aldi?

Yes. If you aren’t satisfied with any grocery item, you can have it refunded or replaced if you have your receipt or other proof of purchase. You have 60 days to return any non-grocery specials.

What is the Aldi catalogue?

This weekly catalogue, which is available in-store or online, shows all of the upcoming Special Buys — which include items such as televisions, furniture and clothes, plus other grocery items that are on special that week.

Special buys appear in-store — famously in the middle aisles — every Wednesday and Saturday, but have limited stock. Some of the most popular special buys have included lawnmowers, ski gear, headphones and luggage. Sign up to the weekly newsletter to get previews of the weekly specials too.

A customer carrying an Aldi Stores Ltd. branded basket walks through one of the company's food stores in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
ALDI's weekly Special Buys often cause queues and chaos in-store. Photo: Getty Images.

Does Aldi deliver?

No. Online shopping, click and collect or home delivery aren’t available at Aldi. You can browse their products online and look at their weekly special buys catalogues, but you can only purchase products in-store. You can also view weekly specials through the Special Buys app.

What are ALDI’s opening hours?

Most stores have returned to their usual trading hours after the easing of coronavirus restrictions. These are 8.30am-7pm or 8.30am-8pm. Check out your local store for details.

Does Aldi have a reward card?

No. In fact, they have a “pointless points” campaign which allows you to work out how much you would spend at other supermarkets to get money off with your rewards card. They suggest it will cost you $2000 to claim a $10 voucher from another supermarket, so you’re better off just paying lower prices at Aldi.

An employee scans a bag of lemons at the check-out counter of an Aldi Stores Ltd. food store in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
The discount retailer keeps prices low by employing less staff and stocking private 'no-name' brands. Photo: Getty Images.

Why is Aldi so cheap?

Aldi is known for its low prices, and there are a few ways it manages to keep its costs so competitive. Firstly, it avoids most brand labels; 90 per cent of its products are private labels, enabling them to keep costs down. They also have a much smaller core selection of products — only 900 — which means they are able to have smaller stores, with lower rents to pay.

In 2017, Aldi announced they were refurbishing their stores to bring in more natural lighting and use energy-saving refrigeration, so they could significantly reduce electricity costs. They also employ fewer staff than larger supermarket chains and don’t advertise as heavily.

Aldi social media outrage

Facebook groups for Aldi fans have huge followings, such as Aldi Fans Australia, which has 36,000 members, and Aldi mums with 121,000 followers. But the groups haven’t been without controversy. Aldi mums recently denied a male entry to the group, stating they wanted to make a “safe space” for women to discuss grocery deals and hacks. There was also heated discussion in the group, after one member spotted an Aldi customer buying six of the special buy Stand Mixers, saying it wasn’t fair that others should miss out because he was buying more than his fair share.

Which Aldi coffee pod is the best?

The Aldi Expressi Calabrese Coffee Capsules won Product of the Year (the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation) in 2017. Aldi’s Expressi machine is consistently voted a close second to the Nespresso machines. Aldi used to offer a recycling program for its coffee pods but it’s been closed until they work out a way of collecting larger volumes of capsules in a sustainable way.

A customer holding a plastic bag and towels stands near fresh produce and fruits at an Aldi Stores Ltd. food store in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
ALDI sources most of its dairy and fresh produce from Australian suppliers. Photo: Getty Images.

Are Aldi products Australian?

Even though the company is German-owned, Aldi sources many of the products for its Australian stores from Australia. The majority of the company’s exclusive brands are sourced in Australia, including all their fresh meat and eggs, 82 per cent of their dairy, and 97 per cent of their fruit and vegetables.

Do Aldi stores sell alcohol?

No, not all of them. Alcohol is available in some stores in NSW, Victoria, ACT and Western Australia, but not in Queensland or South Australia due to licencing limitations.

Last year, Aldi’s Glen Marnoch Single Malt Sherry Cask Scotch Whiskey, $43, won the gold medal at the International Wine and Spirits Award and is now regarded as one of the best scotch whiskeys in the world. You can find alcohol deals in the weekly catalogue.

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