Aldi is a famously secretive company, from its reclusive owners to its well-guarded business practices. What you see in the store is just the outer layer of an international corporate empire that continues to shake up the grocery business.
One thing we all know, though, is that Aldi is always changing. Whether it’s expanding its reach, remodeling stores, redesigning logos, or introducing new delivery methods, the company rarely stands still … and because it isn’t publicly traded, it can afford to innovate while looking at the long view.
Aldi products are also changing, and I’m not just talking about the rotating ALDI Finds (Special Buy) section. A major part of the Aldi operation is contracting with vendors to provide the private labels that make up the vast majority of Aldi’s shelf space. I was once told, by a person with inside knowledge of Aldi’s operations, that vendors clamor for the right to take up Aldi shelf space, with literally thousands of products filling up Aldi corporate space for Aldi specialists to evaluate for possible inclusion in store inventory.
Here are some of the ways we’ve seen Aldi products change.
Reformulated Food Products
The vast majority of Aldi food products are private labels: Millville, Clancy’s, Friendly Farms, and the like. Aldi contracts with companies to rebrand their products as Aldi products. In some cases, you’re even seeing some national brands that are simply relabeling their products as Aldi’s “generic” products. (I could be wrong, but Millville Balance cereal is so close to Quaker Oats Life Cereal that I have to wonder if the Millville version comes straight from Quaker Oats.)
From time to time, we see Aldi tweak its food products. Maybe the taste changes. Or the texture. Or the preparation method. Or all of the above. Of course, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Is it because Aldi dropped one food vendor for another? Or because the vendor, in coordination with Aldi, decided to change the product? Was the motivation for the change based on consumer feedback? Or was it because of financial decisions, like the cost of the product? While we sometimes can speculate, we don’t always know.
Having covered Aldi products for a while now, I can say that, for the most part, Aldi tweaks tend to be an improvement. One of the more notable examples is Cheese Club Macaroni and Cheese Dinner, an Aldi imitation of the famed Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box with the cheese powder. When we first tested the Cheese Club version in 2017, we were not impressed, even after doctoring the mac and cheese with shredded cheese and other additions. However, at the urging of a commenter, we gave it a second shot in 2018 and found the new formula was a big improvement.
We’ve seen plenty of other tweaks in food products along the way. We’ve watched Season’s Choiuce Hash Brown Patties, a personal favorite of mine, undergo a number of tweaks over the years, particularly to the cooking temperature and time. We’ve seen certain limited-run ALDI Finds like Appetitos Southwestern Rolls and Fusia Potstickers get reworked ingredients.
Occasionally, we’ve seen Aldi tweak its product in the wrong direction. At the time of this post, Aldi is in the midst of reformulating its Journey to India Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, which we consider to be one of the best products Aldi sells, and it’s arguably the best jarred tikka masala simmer sauce we’ve ever had … even compared to products we’ve purchased from international grocers that carry Indian products. The reformulations appear to vary by region, but one of them, a 45-calorie replacement to the original 70-calorie formula, has been universally panned by just about everyone we’ve read or talked to who has tried it. (We’re still holding out hope that Aldi will hear the complaints and change course.)
Redesigned Non-Food Products
Aldi runs a constant stream of new non-food products through its stores. The majority of those non-food products are ALDI Finds, which are only in stores for a short time. The rest are Regular Buy items that fit some essentials category, like toothbrushes, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and laundry detergent.
We’ve seen tweaks to both of these product categories. On the ALDI Find front, we’ve seen both small and large adjustments to specific items that come into the store year after year. For example, many of Aldi’s camping supplies have undergone evolutions year after year, whether it’s adding a pillow section to a self-inflating sleeping mat or tweaking a camping cot’s design. Electronics are also a popular choice for product tweaking, like the Crofton Digital Meat Thermometer, which has gone from being a wired device to being wireless.
On the Regular Buy front, we’ve seen changes, large and small, including tweaks and additions to toilet paper and paper towels. More recently, we saw Aldi make changes to its dishwasher pacs.
Rebranded Private Labels
When I first wrote An Unofficial Guide to Shopping at Aldi back in 2017, I compiled a list of Aldi house brands in one of the book’s appendices. When I revised the book in early 2019 in advance of the recently published second edition, I couldn’t help but note some of the private labels that changed in just a two-year period. They included:
- Heart to Tail, a pet care line, which combined Fine Feline and Shep, the Aldi dog product line
- Park Street Deli, which replaced some products in the Little Salad Bar line
- Earth Grown, a new vegan line that debuted in 2018
- Earthly Grains, a new rice and grain line
- Radiance, a cleaning supplies line mostly focused on dishwashing products that replaced Reeva
- Fremont Fish Market, a seafood line that replaced Sea Queen
- Bee Happy, a kids line that replaced the likes of Outdoor Active
- Simply Nature, which got a slight tweak from its original SimplyNature
In addition, I’ve seen Aldi shift specific products from one label to another, such as relabeling the Adventuridge Hydration Backpack the Crane Hydration Backpack or moving a lap desk from the Easy Home line to the SOHL Furniture name. We’ve even seen instances where Aldi took a name brand product and rebranded it under a house brand label.
Repriced, Repackaged, or Resized Products
Virtually every grocer does these three things. Prices change, packaging changes, and sizing can change, too. Aldi is no different. We’ve seen prices fluctuate — something we try to track with some ALDI Finds — but we’ve also seen Aldi engage in a widespread industry practice known as product shrinking, where the grocer will sell a slightly smaller edition of the same product for the same price as the larger version. And, of course, Aldi frequently redesigns its product packaging, usually in a way that looks awfully like their national brand counterparts. (Sometimes Aldi even copies their competitors a little too well.)
Finally I can’t help but note that, sometimes, Aldi’s tweak of a product is to discontinue it altogether.
Electronics seem to be a common casualty. In 2016, we profiled a Medion Desktop PC and Monitor, and later a Medion Laptop and Tablet. While Medion — a subsidiary of Chinese tech company Lenovo — continues to manufacture products for Aldi US, we haven’t seen a computer or tablet in a few years now. Another electronic example: the Sempre Digital Weather Station, which was in stores for years, was MIA in 2018, possibly on the heels of problems with the 2017 model. We’re not sure if we’ll see it again.
Food products are less likely to be discontinued so much as reduced to being an occasional buy. For example, Bake House Creations Pie Crusts went from being an everyday Regular Buy to a holiday Seasonal Favorite. We have, however, seen niche food ALDI Finds be a one-and-done sort of thing, like we did with the tasty Belmont Strawberry Piñata Cake back in 2016.
One of the many things that’s interesting when it comes to writing about Aldi is just how much change the company engages in. There’s always something new, including on the shelves. While I like some of the changes more than others, the fact that Aldi is constantly tweaking what it does is indisputable.
I wonder how many things I wrote about in this post will be outdated two years from now.