Are ALDI and Trader Joe’s the same company?
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Next up in our irregular series of ALDI frequently asked questions: Does ALDI own Trader Joe’s?
Let’s unpack where this persistent belief even came from. On the way, we’ll also talk about all the related questions swirling around the issue of ownership, such as:
- How are ALDI and Trader Joe’s related?
- Do ALDI and Trader Joe’s carry the same products?
- Which is cheaper, ALDI or Trader Joe’s?
- Which is better, ALDI or Trader Joe’s?
ALDI does not own Trader Joe’s
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: ALDI does not own Trader Joe’s — and while we’re at it, Trader Joe’s does not own ALDI. So, how did this idea ever gain circulation in the first place?
How are ALDI and Trader Joe’s related?
All right, if neither company owns the other, are ALDI and Trader Joe’s brothers, or what? As with any good story, there is a kernel of truth at the beginning. So, the common myth runs that ALDI is the same as Trader Joe’s, just operating under a different name.
Nope! ALDI and Trader Joe’s don’t share the same parent company, have no joint ownership, and are independently operated. But, the two stores do share a common family heritage.
The original ALDI (at the time, Albrecht Diskont) opened back in the early 1900s as a single German grocery store. Post WWII, ALDI expanded into one of the largest European grocery chains under the direction of the original owner’s two sons. But back in the 1960s, the brothers argued over whether to sell cigarettes in their stores — and eventually ended up splitting into two independent companies operating within separate geographical areas.
In Europe, Aldi Nord took over the grocery locations in northern Germany and a large chunk of Europe, while Aldi Süd took over those in southern Germany and several other European countries. In the U.S., Trader Joe’s has been owned by Aldi Nord since the late 1970s, while ALDI stores in the U.S. launched under the ownership of Aldi Süd in the mid-70s. The chains have always operated completely independently of one another, and have never shared joint ownership — so are maybe better referred to as distant cousins?
Do ALDI and Trader Joe’s carry the same products?
Do ALDI and Trader Joe’s carry the same products? Well, it depends. Sometimes, as in the case of everything bagel seasoning, each store carries a very similar product at a similar price point.
Sometimes, as in the case of this super-tempting everything but the elote seasoning, Trader Joe’s introduces a fun new product… and then we can only dream that ALDI eventually gets around to carrying it.
In cases where Trader Joe’s and ALDI do stock very similar products, Trader Joe’s will often have a larger variety. When it comes to natural chicken sausage, for instance, my local Trader Joe’s offers many more options than does the ALDI next door — including even a chicken breakfast sausage, which ALDI doesn’t carry.
Hope springs eternal, however: In the case of chicken sausage (as well as some other items), different flavor options will show up seasonally as a limited time special buy at ALDI, while at Trader Joe’s they’re regularly-stocked.
Let’s move on to wine, shall we? If you’re in a state that allows grocery stores to sell alcohol, there’s really not a lot of difference between the three buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s and the $2.95 Winking Owl at ALDI. You definitely, however, will find a much larger wine and beer section at Trader Joe’s, with a number of name brand (and fancier) options.
More importantly, Trader Joe’s also sells hard liquor — for those of you wanting to expand beyond wine and beer options.
Which is cheaper, ALDI or Trader Joe’s?
So which store is cheaper, ALDI or Trader Joe’s? Well, again: It depends — but ALDI tends to come out ahead overall. When it comes to grocery staples, ALDI generally has lower everyday prices. It doesn’t behoove me (or mooove me), for instance, to pay $1.20 more for a gallon of conventional whole milk at Trader Joe’s than at ALDI. The entire dairy section pretty much plays out this way:
- 8 oz cream cheese: $1.29 at ALDI, $1.69 at Trader Joe’s
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella balls: $2.39 at ALDI, $2.99 at Trader Joe’s
- 32 oz nonfat Greek yogurt: $3.45 at ALDI, $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
- 64 oz almond milk: $2.39 at ALDI, $2.69 at Trader Joe’s
Do be on the lookout for the occasional exception, though. 8 oz chocolate hummus, for instance, ran $1.99 at Trader Joe’s and $3.49 at ALDI.
This tends to be true of organic products as well, although in many cases the price differential isn’t as staggering (especially as prices have been creeping up at ALDI). A pound of organic grass fed 85/15 ground beef, for instance, ran $5.29 at my local ALDI and $5.99 at my local Trader Joe’s. 32 oz organic chicken broth cost $1.99 at Trader Joe’s, $1.89 at ALDI; organic canned beans were $.89 at ALDI, $.99 at Trader Joe’s.
Some items will run you about the same at both stores: Say, that everything bagel seasoning, or $.99 cards. When it comes to greeting cards, though, Trader Joe’s definitely wins on selection, but ALDI wins on quality — Their cards are larger, heavier duty, and overall nicer looking than those at Trader Joe’s.
Be sure you’re comparing ounce-to-ounce, too, since often package sizes will differ between the two stores. While at first glance it may appear that gluten free bread is more expensive at ALDI, theirs is a 20 oz loaf as opposed to Trader Joe’s 12 oz loaf. This breaks down to 27.5 cents per oz at ALDI, vs. 37.5 cents per oz at Trader Joe’s.
Note: These photos were all taken the same day, at an ALDI and a Trader Joe’s located close to each other in the same town. Note that at both chains prices can vary by store and region.
So which is better, ALDI or Trader Joe’s?
So which store is better, ALDI or Trader Joe’s? (You’re probably anticipating my “it depends” answer by now, right?!) It depends on your shopping habits, your priorities, and what you’re looking for.
- If you have dietary restrictions: ALDI products may be more affordable, but you’ll often find more variety at Trader Joe’s.
- If you are looking to save on everyday basics: Your cart will be cheaper at ALDI.
- If you’re looking for organic products: ALDI is overall cheaper; Trader Joe’s offers a bigger selection.
- If you’re looking for a quick shopping trip that minimizes decision fatigue, ALDI is your store of choice.
- If you’re looking for a shopping experience that offers multiple options, look at Trader Joe’s.
- If you’re looking for an ever-changing mix of products ranging from food to footwear to furniture, the ALDI Aisle of Shame will be your jam.
In a weird way, Trader Joe’s really shops like a huge ALDI Aisle of Shame: An entire dangerous store full of impulse buys. The free samples don’t help with that, either — although, sometimes those little complimentary cups of coffee can be a shopping lifesaver.
But, that’s exactly the seductive danger of Trader Joe’s. The whole store is artfully designed to suck you into wanting to hand over your money, from the whimsical signage and Fearless Flyer descriptions, to the cheerful and omnipresent staff, to the themed displays, to the ever-changing sample station.
Me, I like both stores
If you have both an ALDI and a Trader Joe’s in your neck of the woods, you’re so lucky! Look at this as a both/and rather than an either/or proposition. Personally, I shop ALDI most of the time, with only the occasional trip to Trader Joe’s for “fun” stuff and a few favorite products ALDI does not carry. (This Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley salsa, though…) It’s better for my wallet, and keeps Trader Joe’s a fresh and fun shopping experience.
What do you all think? Do you shop both ALDI and Trader Joe’s, and could you pick a favorite?