Grocery Shopping for the Cost-Conscious

Aldi features bargain prices, but you won't find any name brands.

ByABC News
November 24, 2008, 1:03 PM

GENEVA, Ill., Nov. 24, 2008— -- Forget name brands. In this grocery store you won't find Kellogg's Cornflakes, Huggies or Kleenex.

In fact, take a walk down the aisles and you won't see much that's familiar. Ever hear of Corntown popcorn, Clancy's potato chips or Millville cereal? Such uncommon names hold the secret to success for one of America's fastest-growing grocery chains.

Welcome to Aldi, the German-owned, low-cost, no-frills, do-it-yourself grocery chain that takes great pride in saving a buck. It's a formula that this deep-discount grocer is taking to the bank in the United States as the economy tanks.

"Money's tight so I want to spend less on groceries," shopper Melissa Albright said at a store in Geneva, Ill. It's one of nearly 1,000 stores in the United States.

"I think this lousy economy has jolted customers, more and more customers, to give us a try to save money on their groceries," said Jason Hart, the president of Aldi.

Aldi's layout is smaller than the typical supermarket, and so is its selection. There are only about 1,400 products, compared to tens of thousands in most grocery stores.

There may not be a lot of variety, but the simplicity, and absence of name brands, allows Aldi to sell groceries for far less than its competitors. A typical basket of items, Aldi claims, includes prices 40 percent to 50 percent lower than most supermarket chains, and 16 percent to 24 percent less than big discounters like Wal-mart and Costco. But Aldi does not cater to low-income customers. Surveys show Aldi shoppers have annual household incomes of about $65,000.

"Discount shopping isn't about low income," Hart said. "Discount shopping is about people wanting to save money."

"I'm a tightwad. I gotta get my kids through college. I want to retire some day. So I don't want to waste money where I don't have to waste it," shopper Brenda Reilly said.

A small sampling of several common products suggests substantial savings. Ketchup at Aldi is $1.15 compared to the $2.75 customers fork over for the same size of a name-brand bottle at big-chain supermarkets. Oat cereal is $1.49 at Aldi, versus $3.49 if you bought the best-known brand. And peanut butter is $1.39 at Aldi. A name-brand version costs $2.99.