Aldi Has a Very Impressive Barcode Strategy

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


In a desperate last-ditch attempt to avoid Donald Trump for an extra few minutes, I stopped into our shiny new Aldi store after lunch. Aldi is—well, let’s back up a second. There are actually two Aldis: Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord. Why? Because in a very Dallas-esque maneuver1 about half a century ago, the Aldi brothers decided to split their business in half. After expanding throughout Europe, Karl then proceeded to open up Aldi in the Eastern US in 1976 and Theo bought Trader Joe’s on the West Coast in 1979. TJ’s is famous for smallish stores, lots of private labels, and high-quality food. Aldi is famous for smallish stores, lots of private labels, and rock-bottom prices.

Anyway, Aldi has finally made it to Southern California, so I checked it out. The vibe is sort of like an HO-scale Costco except without any actual employees anywhere. The brand strategy reminded me of Radio Shack back in the day. At Radio Shack, everything was private label, but there were lots of different labels: Realistic, Micronta, Archer, etc. Aldi is the same: nearly everything is private label, and there are lots of different labels: Clancy’s for snacks, Lifeways for allegedly healthy foods, and—my favorite—Welby for drugs. The packaging itself is such a brazen ripoff of major brands that I’m surprised they can get away with it. But I guess they do.

While I was there, I bought some Choceur chocolate (I had to buy something, didn’t I?) and some Southern Grove peanuts. I’m forced to admit that they were pretty good—at about half the price I’m used to paying.2 The store I was at had a grand total of one (1) checker, which I gather is standard, but holy cow was she fast. The key, apparently, is to put large UPC codes on literally every surface of the packaging, so that checkers can just slide stuff over the scanner at light speed. This works fine since the packaging is all controlled by Aldi and doesn’t have to be used to attract customers. You want potato chips? You’re going to buy Clancy’s.

So that’s my report. I won’t pretend it was very interesting, but it accomplished my purpose. I’ve now avoided Trump for yet another hour or so.

1Fans of the show know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can go here to watch one of the greatest scenes ever on network TV.

2Of course, my local store is Gelson’s. But Aldi’s stuff is still cheap, even compared to a normal supermarket.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate