Nation & World

Aldi ups its game

Chain expands organics, fresh produce

Chicago Tribune/TNS

Aldi will begin offering featured items that seem more at home at sibling store Trader Joe’s or Amazon’s Whole Foods than a discount chain.
Chicago Tribune/TNS Aldi will begin offering featured items that seem more at home at sibling store Trader Joe’s or Amazon’s Whole Foods than a discount chain.
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Aldi, the Germany-based no-frills supermarket chain, is rethinking some of its spartan ways.

While the shopping carts still require a returnable quarter deposit and grocery bags still cost extra, Aldi will start offering featured items that seem more at home at sibling store Trader Joe’s or Amazon’s Whole Foods than a discount chain.

“The continued success of our store expansion and remodel initiatives have given us the opportunity to carefully select and introduce new products that satisfy our customers’ increasing preferences for fresh items, including organic meats, salad bowls, sliced fruits and gourmet cheeses,” said Jason Hart, CEO of Aldi U.S., in a statement.

More items — from marinated cilantro lime chicken breasts and ready-to-eat sliced mango, pineapple and watermelon spears to organic produce and chicken — will be on the shelves in some remodeled stores in the next two weeks.

The refrigerated sections will expand to include more grab-and-go foods, including single-serve guacamole and organic hummus, fresh fruit and veggie snack packs.

Meal starters such as quinoa bowls, premium pasta sauces, gluten-free bagels, strawberry kefir and kombucha cold drinks, and milk alternatives such as coconut milk, lactose-free and organic almond will be added.

About 90 percent of Aldi’s selection is private label.

Some items will start showing up as soon as next week, such as Earth Grown vegan items, Buffalo or BBQ chickenless patties, a southwest quinoa crunch veggie burger, vegetable pot stickers, lentil or mushroom risotto veggie burger, spicy Cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches and vegan dressings.

“This is Aldi’s reaction to understanding the consumer,” said supermarket analyst Phil Lempert as he received an early look Wednesday at a refreshed store near Batavia, Ill., Aldi’s U.S. headquarters.

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“Their produce sales are growing at double the rate of any other category in the stores, so they’re increasing the amount of fresh food by 40 percent.”

By adding more organics and specialty items unique to its brand, Aldi appears to be taking a cue from its sister company in Germany called Aldi North.

Aldi consists of two companies, which were separated in the 1960s by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht. Aldi South and North own all of the more than 1,800 Aldi stores in the United States and nearly 4,000 more throughout the world. Aldi North also owns Trader Joe’s.

Last year, the company announced a $5 billion U.S. expansion to build 900 new stores and remodel more than 1,300 others.

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