To the Editor:
Several years ago, my mom came home from her weekly grocery store trip looking ecstatic. From our family’s minivan emerged an assortment of reusable shopping bags filled with generically labeled products which I had never encountered before. My mom began to tell me about a store called ALDI that she recently found, and explained how efficient, low-cost and stress-free the shopping experience was. As a lover of name-brand items, I was skeptical and continually critiqued the ALDI products my mom brought home. Yet, my mom continued her ALDI pilgrimages, finding joy in the new products she discovered.
Now, nearly five years later, after studying marketing at the Dyson school and learning how to fend for myself in college, I am also a self-proclaimed ALDI evangelist. But, I’ve since learned that ALDI has a reputation for being cheap and low-quality — something that is reflected in Ally Mark’s ’24 recent dining article “Ally Meets Aldi,” when she wrote, “you get what you pay for.” This sentiment, however, is not a testament to the actual quality of ALDI products, but is rather a privileged attitude coming from a poor understanding of the reasons why people choose to shop at ALDI stores.
Last year, I had the chance to visit an ALDI distribution facility in Tully, New York with the Dyson Food Marketing Fellows club. During the tour, I was struck by the insane attention to efficiency and detail in their supply chain workings. I was impressed by their automated inventory system that filled store orders quickly, allowing each location to stock its stores without using extra labor. The ALDI executive who gave us the tour expressed how these supply chain technologies enable ALDI to keep costs extremely low and eliminate high mark-up prices. He also explained that ALDI’s product philosophy revolves around experimenting with finding the most cost-effective way to produce their products.
Sure, ALDI sells “cheap” food — but that doesn’t mean it’s bad food. Marketers and corporations have continually pushed the message that the more expensive something is, the higher quality it must be. Inexpensive goods influence a customer’s “perceived value,” which is one of the most important aspects of purchase decisions. Many of our purchase decisions are not based on actual product quality, but on external factors: social status, bandwagon trends and other things that affect our perception of what is “acceptable” to buy.
From what I’ve seen, ALDI cuts company costs through their efficient supply chain and generic labeling, passing on those savings to their customers. This is why I’m a strong advocate for ALDI. I like to think that their mission is to undermine this longstanding marketing stronghold that expensive brands and stores have created. Today’s grocery stores charge premiums for their unique products and in-store experiences like coffee shops or fancy delis. Shoppers who can afford these experiences often forget that these additions are not accessible to all food shoppers. Many Cornell students that I’ve encountered tend to forget this as well, which unfortunately upholds the elitism that Cornell is accused of all too often.
In her article, Mark alludes to her disappointment in the lack of trustable brands and critiques the no-frills environment of the ALDI store, as if ALDI is supposed to cater to the expensive tastes of wealthier grocery shoppers. This is not an accurate portrayal of an ALDI experience, but is rather an unfair imposition of her own ideals onto a grocery store that provides cost-effective shopping experiences for many people who may not be able to afford Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
In my view, ALDI is a company that is not just pro-consumer, but pro every consumer. I’ve seen this in my own family, and I see it every time I walk into an ALDI store. When you walk through an ALDI store, you see an eclectic mix of all kinds of consumers — cost-savers, spenders, families, individuals and more. It seems to me that ALDI breaks down barriers that other groceries try to uphold in order to maintain an expensive image. In my opinion, ALDI is a store that is truly for the people.
Seth Bollinger ’22