German grocery retailer Aldi first planted its roots in the U.S. back in the 1970s after gaining success across Europe. Today, the chain is ranked as the country’s third-largest grocer, numbering 2,160 U.S. locations and counting. Americans have come to adopt the unique no-frills – and no-bags – grocer as one of its own.
Recent CivicScience survey results show that 17% of U.S. adults shop at Aldi several times a month or more (n=2,737).
How does Aldi stack up to other leading U.S. grocery chains? A far greater percentage of Americans regularly shop at Walmart for groceries (37%) or Kroger stores (30%). Aldi sits somewhere in between major and specialty retailers, such as Whole Foods, which brings in a smaller percentage (12%) of the population.
After a push to ramp up production in 2017, Aldi has earned its place in the U.S. grocery space and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. What gives Aldi its competitive edge and keeps customers coming back? CivicScience unearthed several trends among its customer base to help shed some light on the fast-growing competitor.
Young People Like Aldi
First, survey results show that age is one of the most defining aspects of likelihood to shop at Aldi and the supermarket is immensely popular among young audiences. One-quarter of U.S. adults within Millennial and Gen Z generations surveyed regularly shop at Aldi (several times per month or more), compared to less than 20% of Gen X and just 12% of Baby Boomer generations. The majority of the under-35 crowd visit Aldi at least a few times per year.
Price Is Key, But It’s Not Everything
Young adults on budgets may be drawn in by Aldi’s low prices. Although it’s known for its competitive prices, leading it to be seen by some as a “discount grocer,” Aldi doesn’t readily embrace that label and aims to appeal to shoppers of all backgrounds. Current data show that people across all incomes regularly shop at Aldi, however, those making $50K or less per year are the most likely to shop there, which could be attributed in part to a shopper base that tends to skew younger. That’s followed by middle-income households making between $50-100K yearly.
The Aldi U.S. division originated from a family business that also owns Trader Joe’s, although it’s not currently connected to Trader Joe’s. But much like the Trader Joe’s model, a major aspect of Aldi’s success is in its exclusive private-label brands, such as Simply Nature products or its Friendly Farms dairy line.
Survey findings suggest that to Aldi shoppers, brand is key. When asked what was more important – price or brand – nearly one-third of regular Aldi shoppers say “brand,” while under one-quarter value “price” more. Frequent Aldi shoppers are twice as likely as infrequent shoppers, and nearly three times more likely than non-shoppers, to prioritize product brand.
At a time of increasing price-sensitivity fueled by inflation, interestingly, regular Aldi shoppers are much more likely to be less concerned about price compared to those who don’t typically shop there. More than 30% say they have felt less price sensitive over the past year. In comparison, a far greater percentage (43%) of Kroger shoppers feel more price-sensitive.
Perhaps because of Aldi’s lower-than-average prices on its private labels, the grocer’s regular shoppers are less likely to be as severely impacted by high food prices.
Aldi’s growth and popularity could also be related to macro-level changes seen in grocery shopping, as more people seek out lower prices. Recent survey findings reveal that one-quarter of shoppers are shopping at discount grocery stores more than usual.
This is even more prominent among frequent Aldi shoppers – nearly half of these shoppers are shopping at discount grocers. Whether or not Aldi can be labeled as a “discount” grocer, their prices are lower than most other grocers and shoppers likely know it.
A Win for Organic and Environmentally Concerned Shoppers
The data also suggest that Aldi’s selection of organic produce and other organic items are important to its customer base. Nearly half of frequent Aldi shoppers are organic food buyers, and close to one in five purchase organic food regularly. Although that’s less than frequent Whole Foods shoppers, Aldi shoppers are more likely to buy organic food than regular Kroger or Walmart shoppers.
Regular Aldi shoppers are also more likely to actively avoid buying groceries that contain GMOs, compared to infrequent shoppers or non-shoppers.
In addition, regular Aldi shoppers are more likely to prioritize purchasing environmentally friendly products. That said, Aldi’s DIY policy when it comes to shopping bags (customers must bring their own bags) likely resonates well among sustainability-minded shoppers.
Grocery Delivery and Other Trends
How important is grocery delivery for Aldi? The company first partnered with Instacart in 2018 to offer grocery delivery. Today, more than 40% of regular Aldi shoppers have used grocery delivery, far exceeding the average (32%), while an additional quarter intends to use it. While the data doesn’t imply that Aldi shoppers have used Instacart for Aldi purchases specifically, the correlation does suggest grocery delivery is a viable model for the brand and has room to grow.
This could in part be related to location and job status. First, people living in urban areas are more likely to shop at Aldi frequently. Grocery delivery becomes more appealing than fighting for parking in a city or for city-dwellers who don’t own vehicles.
Second, regular Aldi shoppers are much more likely to be working from home compared to infrequent or non-shoppers. Past CivicScience studies show that remote workers over-index as grocery delivery users and they are also more likely to be young adults. Remote workers make up nearly one-quarter of Aldi’s frequent shopper base.
All in all, survey findings suggest that Aldi inhabits a sort of sweet spot among the American Gen Pop, in between large regional or big-box grocers and specialty grocers. Although price does appear to be an important factor for frequent shoppers, likely bringing in more people hunting for discounted grocery alternatives, the grocer appeals to a wide variety of people across all income levels and locations. Young, organic, and sustainability-minded food shoppers who value brand quality are clearly part of the equation when it comes to Aldi’s current and future success.