When ALDI supermarket’s U.S. CEO, Jason Hart, announced plans to shake up the grocery store industry by investing $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 stores – and making a $3.4 billion capital investment to expand to 2,500 stores – shoppers took notice.
One year later, this privately-held, multi-billion-dollar discount supermarket chain is well on its way to becoming the third largest grocery store – by count – in the U.S., which already has doubled its size in recent years.
ALDI – a large, multinational company with U.S. headquarters in Batavia, IL – has almost 1,800 stores in 35 states and Washington, DC.
In Connecticut – where there are 26 ALDI stores – customers are seeing firsthand how quickly this massive expansion plan is materializing.
Bruce Persohn, vice president of the ALDI South Windsor Division – where the regional distribution center is located – said, “Our aggressive expansion and remodel plan is a key focus nationally and in Connecticut. Ultimately, we want to reach as many new shoppers as possible with ALDI stores, and we also want to ensure our existing customers have the best shopping experience possible at our current stores.”
A new store just opened in Hamden and the store in Derby was recently remodeled.
The latest ALDI supermarket that will soon get a major overhaul is at 125 Danbury Road in New Milford. This high-traffic store, which opened in 2011, will gain 2,330 square feet on the rear loading dock side of the existing 15,720 square-foot building.
The increase in square footage is mostly for the sales floor and new refrigeration for fresh products. The foundation and structure will be built in the first 10 weeks, and all mechanicals will be updated during the remaining five to six weeks. The store will be moved into the new area while it’s closed.
Seventy-one additional parking spaces also will be created to accommodate more shoppers.
Persohn said the remodel work on the New Milford store will begin this month. “Prior to the remodel’s completion, the New Milford store will temporarily close for about a month for final renovations. Currently, the store is scheduled to temporarily close in September and reopen in October,” he said
For displaced shoppers, the nearest ALDI store is in Danbury. The Torrington and Waterbury stores are options, too, although they are farther away.
When it comes to choosing supermarket locations, ALDI looks for sites that are closest to their shoppers and also can support a high daily traffic volume. “Bottom line, we want to be conveniently located for our shoppers, and New Milford has a loyal community of ALDI shoppers,” said Persohn.
“The ALDI expansion will allow for more groceries and choices for our New Milford residents and community neighbors, said Mayor Pete Bass. “An expansion signifies that our town is a great place to open or expand a business.”
ALDI stores in Dayville, North Windham, Lisbon, Middletown and West Hartford are also slated to be remodeled before the end of this year.
In keeping up with consumer demand, the company’s regional distribution center is going through a major expansion phase, too. “We are currently expanding our distribution center to make more room for perishable items in our stores,” Persohn explained.
The $30 million expansion project includes 170,000 square feet added on to the existing 500,000 square-foot distribution center. This South Windsor facility serves stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Right now, the company employs approximately 650 workers in Connecticut. Overall, ALDI employs more than 31,000 workers in their stores, distribution centers and corporate offices. “We have our sights set high, and our continuous expansion will create even more employment opportunities in the future,” Persohn said.
One milestone that sets the company apart is that it’s the first grocery store chain to offer all ALDI-exclusive products free of certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) and added MSG.
ALDI also considers itself to be a private-label pioneer. More than 90 percent of the products sold in all its stores feature ALDI-exclusive brands, which have won more than 200 awards and honors.
Little Journey for babies, Fit & Active and Specially Selected are some of the ALDI-exclusive product lines.
ALDI’s most recognizable brands:
- SimplyNature – an organic and all-natural product line
- Never Any! – meats with no antibiotics, no hormones added and no animal-by products
- liveGfree – gluten free products, baking staples and bread mixes
- Earth Grown –food free from animal products including meat, poultry and seafood, which also includes vegan items
How it all began…
ALDI US first opened its doors in Iowa in 1976.
However, the first ALDI store opened much earlier in Germany and the Albrecht brothers, Karl and Theo, are its founders.
In the 1960s, ALDI – short for Albrecht Discount (Diskont) – split into two separate entities. The brothers divided the German territory in half and helped to start the discount revolution.
According to Forbes.com, Karl Albrecht took the stores in southern Germany – ALDI South (Süd), headquartered in Mülheim, Germany – plus rights to the ALDI brand in the US, UK and Australia.
Theo Albrecht took over the stores in northern Germany – ALDI North (Nord), headquartered in Essen, Germany – and the rest of Europe. In 1971, he bought the US grocery discounter Trader Joe’s on his own.
In the earlier years, both brothers inherited a small grocery store in Essen, Germany, which first opened in 1913.
Today, the brothers’ descendants are heirs to their multi-billion-dollar fortunes.
A version of this feature by Alicia Sakal originally appeared online and on the Business front page in the June 13, 2018 edition of Republican-American, a regional daily newspaper in 36 towns and cities in Litchfield County and Greater Waterbury, Connecticut.
Exterior Building Photo: Alicia Sakal / Logo and Interior Photos – Contributed