Aldi is a business. It was created to make a profit for its owners, and it exists today to make money. And that it does, earning billions of dollars worldwide every year even as it continues to expand. Its original owners were so rich that one of them once got kidnapped and held for ransom money. Their heirs are likewise fabulously well-off.
This isn’t unique to Aldi. All companies are out to make a profit. And making a profit doesn’t mean that a company doesn’t perform a valuable function. Aldi is a successful business precisely because it is so good at doing what it does: running an efficient store with quality products at low prices. Trader Joe’s, the Aldi cousin, is the most profitable grocer per square foot in the United States, and it does so with a diverse selection of products, underrated prices, and some of the nicest workers you’ll ever meet.
These are things I think about when I go into the Aldi middle aisle. That aisle — known as the Aldi Find section, or, to some, the Aisle of Shame — is designed to generate income for the German supermarket. The Aldi weekly ad showcases a fresh lineup of limited buys each and every week, adding an additional lure for shoppers on top of getting the staples they need. It’s no accident that every time you leave Aldi, a flyer for next week’s ad waits for you near the exit doors.
Just like I mentioned before, though, the middle aisle serves other functions. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a smarter person for having looked through each week’s Aldi Finds. Listed below are some of the things Aldi limited buys have taught me over the years.
I get it: stores are out to convince me of what I think I need. Put another way, stores often set the trends. It’s also true that stores ride trends. Aldi is a careful company with limited shelf space, so it only puts things out there if it thinks those things will sell. An Aldi Find might be a sign of starting a new trend, but it’s more likely the store is trying to capitalize on a rising one. Aldi didn’t invent keto bread and teal cabinets, but it certainly ran with a growing demand.
I don’t buy things just because they’re in style. Just the same, I still like knowing what’s popular.
We’ve all had problems we didn’t quite know how to solve. Some of those problems are so big we have to deal with them right away. Many more, though, are small annoyances that we know we need to deal with but don’t have the time and mental space for.
The Aldi middle aisle has solved more of these small problems over the years than I might have expected. Issues with shoe clutter? Aldi has helped with that. Difficulties finding a compact option for sleeping while camping? Aldi sold a fix. Problems sifting through pots and pans? Aldi offered a solution.
Just as often, Aldi has offered a product right around the time I needed it. I’ve bought more than a few pots and pans from Aldi as my current ones were wearing out. We replaced a dying vacuum cleaner when Aldi sold one. Same with slippers, shoes, gloves, and coats.
What I Didn’t Realize I Needed
Stores are notorious for trying to get us to buy things we don’t need. It’s also true that stores sometimes sell us things we didn’t realize we needed … and we really do need them.
Case in point: a few years ago, I spotted a portable tire inflator at Aldi. I’d dealt with low tire pressure before, going to a gas station to fix it. Aldi made me think, though, that maybe I’d benefit from having a tire inflator on hand just in case. As it happened, our family found ourselves with a flat tire several hundred miles from home. A nail had pierced the tire, but thanks to the inflator, we were able to give the tire enough air to limp to a nearby shop to get the tire patched.
We’ve discovered other useful Aldi products over the years that have improved our lives. Air fryers. Indoor gardens. Ceramic pans. No doubt many Aldi shoppers have benefitted from adding one of Aldi’s many affordable Instant Pot clones to their kitchen lineup.
Aldi Finds are, first and foremost, about bringing in revenue to the German grocer. But they also can be valuable to customers. I’ve solved more than a few problems in my life using Aldi Finds, and I’ve learned a few things along the way, too. The Aldi middle aisle really can be an educational experience.
Is it perhaps true that Aldi is able to sell staples cheaper than other places because the profits from the Aisle of Shame products make up what is lost on lower prices on other things? Topped off by offering products that are fun and/or useful at mostly reasonable prices, it’s no wonder Aldi is successful. The flyers at the exit doors are often gone in a day or two at our local Aldi.
I love Aldi and Trader Joe’s “Mexican Street Corn Chips”. Bought at TJ for couple of years, not carried now. Saw at ALDI recently, now they don’t have them. Hope they come back!!