WBEZ | aldi http://www.wbez.org/tags/aldi Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago's shifting grocery landscape mirrors changing city economics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 <p><p>Once upon a time Jewel and Dominick&rsquo;s ruled the grocery game in Chicago with more stores than any other chain.</p><p>Now, Jewel, under its third new owner in 14 years, is facing stiff competition. And Dominick&rsquo;s? It doesn&rsquo;t exist anymore.</p><p>Today the most ubiquitous chain is a discount grocer that actually grew during the recent recession, attracting everyone from traditional discount shoppers to hipsters to middle-class families.</p><p>Aldi.</p><p>With 36 stores in Chicago alone, we wanted to understand what this says about Chicago&rsquo;s changing grocery store landscape and the shoppers who fill their carts.</p><p>To see what goes into Aldi&rsquo;s &ldquo;secret sauce,&rdquo; we took a trip to the chain&rsquo;s U.S. headquarters in west suburban Batavia.</p><p>Officials led us into a huge white industrial kitchen with tables full of various products. Aldi&rsquo;s main ingredient for success is its use of mostly in-house labels to keep prices down. No Betty Crocker or Cheerios here. But that only works if customers think those brands hold up to the national brands.</p><p>Like their national buyers do, we conducted blind taste testing with national brands and the Aldi brands. We sipped orange juice and Riesling, munched on blueberry muffins and party cheese, sampled yogurt and guacamole. In most instances, we could barely detect a difference between the national brand and Aldi&rsquo;s. Except of course, in price. The Aldi brand orange juice we tried cost 32 percent less.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/alditestkitchen.jpg" title="Aldi's test kitchen in the west suburb of Batavia. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The grocery business is super competitive. Profit margins are in the low single digits. So Aldi&rsquo;s other recipe for keeping costs down can be found in the stores themselves. Aldi stores occupy a smaller footprint than other big supermarket chains. You might almost miss it if you&rsquo;re driving by.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no music, no frills. Customers pay a deposit to use the shopping carts. Grocery bags aren&rsquo;t free. Everything is calibrated to be as efficient as possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For example when we look at the product in the store, you can notice it&rsquo;s all stocked in cases. If I didn&rsquo;t point that out, you may not notice it,&rdquo; said Aldi vice president Scott Patton.</p><p>&ldquo;They match the label of the product. They&rsquo;re the same color scheme. It has the brand on it. So we&rsquo;ve made the case and the box an extension of the product, which we can now stock eight to ten units of potato chips in two or three seconds versus unit by unit.&rdquo;</p><p>The rise of a low-end grocer like Aldi isn&rsquo;t the only trend worth noting. More upscale chains like Whole Foods have also seen serious growth. In 2001, there were three in Chicago. Today there are six. And that doesn&rsquo;t include the former Dominick&rsquo;s spaces the organic chain is snapping up.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/tOq67/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>We looked at the data for major Chicago grocery stores since 2001. In addition to Aldi and Whole Foods we tracked the numbers for Jewel, Trader Joe&rsquo;s, Mariano&rsquo;s, Pete&rsquo;s, Tony&rsquo;s, Save a Lot, and Food for Less.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#map"><strong><span style="font-size:16px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores</span></strong></a></p></blockquote><p>Ken Perkins, an analyst for Morningstar, said in some ways changes in the industry reflect changes in the city.</p><p>&ldquo;As the economy has really been difficult you&rsquo;ve seen people on the low end shift to discounters and a lot of people who are willing to pay for premium for in store experience and quality food. I think that polarization is what you&rsquo;ve seen not only in Chicago but across the country,&rdquo; Perkins said.</p><p>University of Illinois at Chicago researchers <a href="http://voorheescenter.wix.com/home#!neighborhood-change-project-/cjew">found much the same thing when they looked at income gaps in Chicago</a>. Higher-income households have increased -- so have lower-income households. But those in the middle have shrunk. Not unlike Jewel and Dominick&#39;s, the middle-of-the-road grocers that served them.</p><p>Food and retail researcher Mari Gallagher has a few theories about what happened to those grocers.</p><p>&ldquo;It used to be that the middle-market was about 30,000 sq ft. It was pretty ubiquitous in different neighborhoods. It might look a little different in Lake Forest than in it did in Roseland, a Chicago neighborhood for example. But it pretty much offered the same kind of cookie cutter thing and then stores got much bigger and as stores got bigger they tried to go a little bit upscale and they struggled with are we an upscale bigger store or are we a middle-market store. So they lost a bit of their identity,&rdquo; Gallagher said.</p><p>She also noted other players have grabbed a big chunk of the grocery business, such as gas stations, mini marts, dollar stores and big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco.</p><p>But customer taste has changed, too. Organic is more popular and, for some, pushing a cart around a grocery store became more of an experience than a chore.</p><p>&ldquo;We see more and more customers now even those customers with means shopping at multiple stores,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not so uncommon for thrifty shopper to go to Aldi or Save A Lot for staples or key items and then go to speciality stores or high-end stores for organic produce. They might go to Whole Foods and Aldi&rsquo;s and two or three other stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Increasingly, that includes Mariano&rsquo;s. The fast-growing chain appears to be reinventing the middle-market grocery store. The stores aren&rsquo;t super premium, but there&rsquo;s also a focus on hospitality. The workers wear black ties, there&rsquo;s a wine bar, and on the weekends somebody playing a grand piano.</p><p>It&rsquo;s CEO, Bob Mariano, once worked for Dominick&rsquo;s. In fact, old man Dominick was his mentor. Company officials declined an interview on its strategy, but a few months ago the CEO spoke at a press conference to announce that a Mariano&rsquo;s was coming to Bronzeville. That neighborhood is a food desert and residents were excited by the idea of having a real grocery store.</p><p>After a round of applause, Mariano said: &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a lot of pressure because I&rsquo;m just a grocer. People sometimes ask me what do I do for pleasure, what&rsquo;s my hobbies? I tell them I don&rsquo;t golf, I don&rsquo;t sail. I just open grocery stores.&rdquo;</p><p>Three years ago there were no Mariano&rsquo;s in the city. Today there are 10 with more opening up all the time.</p><p>In Chicago today there are more grocery stores overall than there were a decade ago. But not everyone is sharing in this abundance. There are still large parts of the South and West Sides that are left out.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-south-shore-still-not-have-grocery-store-110699">Part two of our series The Check-Out Line</a>, will explore whether race plays a role in determining where grocery stores are built.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Map: Tracking Chicago&#39;s shifting grocery stores<a name="map"></a></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="660" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/checkout-line/" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></em></strong><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow Monica at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em>&nbsp;<em>or write to her at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0">Natalie Moore</a></em>&nbsp;<em>is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side bureau reporter.</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on</em>&nbsp;<em><a href="https://plus.google.com/104033432051539426343">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-shifting-grocery-landscape-mirrors-changing-city-economics-110695 If Aldi is movin' on up, is it also leaving some behind? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/if-aldi-movin-it-also-leaving-some-behind-109636 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/aldi inside.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When Whole Foods promises a new store in impoverished Englewood and Aldi thrives in posh Lincoln Park, things may seem a little upside down in the Chicago supermarket world.</p><p>But grocery store profiles can shift over time, and perhaps none more so than Aldi, the German-owned chain that launched here in 1976 as a no-frills, low end, budget grocer.</p><p>In recent years, the store has begun stocking more upscale (even organic) offerings. In the process, it&#39;s expanded its customer base, raising concerns among some that the chain has abandoned its original low-income supporters. Retail food consultant Jon Hauptman of Willard Bishop, has analyzed this trend (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/monica-eng-why-foodie-loves-aldi-109350">which I recently observed myself</a>).</p><p>&ldquo;When you go to Aldi today you are very likely to see high performance cars and expensive automobiles and shoppers from a wide variety of demographics,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve made it socially acceptable to shop at Aldi, and even a fun, interesting experience. And they&rsquo;re now locating their stores in more upscale areas than they did before with many of their stores being built from the ground up, something they never used to do. They used to just rent distressed space in existing strip malls. Today they&rsquo;re building new stores and the stores they&rsquo;re building are brighter and more appealing than they were a decade ago.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Aldi promises to open about 650 more of these new stores over the next five years. The move will find them expanding into the American South and West, and nearly double the number of stores they currently operate. But as part of the new strategy the Batavia-based U.S. headquarters is also closing some stores.</p><p>Denise Moore is a councilwoman in Peoria&rsquo;s 1st District, where area residents, last month, protested the closing of a two decade-old Aldi in their neighborhood called the South End.</p><p>&ldquo;Quite honestly, they felt like they were being abandoned, that after 25 years of operating in the first district on that location Aldi up and left almost with no notice,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Aldi responded by explaining that it was opening a &ldquo;larger, new store&rdquo; in East Peoria.</p><p>It added: &ldquo;The new store replaced two locations in the area; both stores had been in operation for more than 20 years and were too small to offer customers the full line of Aldi products. We take the closing of any Aldi store very seriously. In this case, we made a business decision to build a store that offers an expanded variety of fresh foods to more customers in the area. We understand the concerns raised by some of our Peoria customers and appreciate their support over the past 25 years. &ldquo;</p><p>Moore says that she and the residents were told by Aldi that it was part of a strategy to open more stores near Wal-Marts. But she started to wonder if there was more to the strategy when she learned of another upcoming Aldi closure near a housing project in Pekin, Illinois. At the same time, she says, the chain is opening a store in a more affluent part of town. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;[Aldi] is moving further north into Pekin leaving that community as a food desert as well,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Aldi counters that the location it&#39;s closing in Pekin still has a Kroger store nearby.</p><p>Strangely enough, only a few years ago a <a href="http://www.chicagojournal.com/blogs/08-28-2009/Madison_and_Western_grocer:_from_the_archives">Chicago community successfully resisted</a> the building of a new Aldi in West Town because the store was seen as too low brow. Instead, a Pete&rsquo;s Fresh Market is scheduled to open there this spring.</p><p>Still, grocery store industry watcher, Hauptman, says that he sees Aldi&rsquo;s recent moves as more of an expansion than an abandonment of old customers.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think Aldi has given up on the lower income areas at all,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve just expanded to &hellip;.serve a wider range of neighborhoods than they have in the past.&rdquo;</p><p>But if Aldi does vacate some poorer neighborhoods in the Midwest, is there a chain waiting to take its place?</p><p>&ldquo;If there is another format out there that is looking to serve a similar role it would be dollar stores,&rdquo; Hauptman said. &ldquo;They have traditionally built themselves in lower or lower-middle income neighborhoods. And&hellip;over the past 10 years they have begun to sell more consumables &ndash; food. If you go back 10 years consumables accounted for one third of their sales and non-consumables represented two-thirds. Today that has more than flip-flopped. &ldquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Hauptman further notes that a few other chains including Sav-A-Lot and PriceRite have taken a cue from Aldi&rsquo;s &ldquo;value oriented&rdquo; model and are targeting similar consumers. &nbsp;At the same time, however, the Midwest is also seeing growth in the higher-end, full service category of stores that include Mariano&rsquo;s and Whole Foods.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t be in the unsustainable middle ground anymore,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That is exactly the reason Dominick&rsquo;s suffered so much. They didn&rsquo;t stand for anything special. They did a lot of things pretty well, but they weren&rsquo;t known for anything exceptional. Aldi is known for exceptional value and Mariano&rsquo;s and Whole Foods are known for exceptional quality. So they are establishing themselves in unique areas.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p></p> Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/if-aldi-movin-it-also-leaving-some-behind-109636 Morning Shift: The Aldi revolution http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-17/morning-shift-aldi-revolution-109388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Aldi Flickr Holcombe of Hidalgo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&#39;s grocery store landscape is changing with the closure of all Dominick&#39;s stores. We look at how the no-frills atmosphere of Aldi is finding new customers in Chicago. Also, we hear from a legal experts who&#39;s protesting a part of the Farm Bill. (Photo: Flickr/scrappy)</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-aldi-evolution/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-aldi-evolution.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-aldi-evolution" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The Aldi revolution" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 08:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-17/morning-shift-aldi-revolution-109388 Should you buy a tablet at Aldi? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/should-you-buy-tablet-aldi-109369 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/TABLET size lead.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Earlier this week, I<a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/monica-eng-why-foodie-loves-aldi-109350"> revealed my secret affection f</a>or Aldi food and home products. And, at the risk of sounding like some sort of Aldi freak, I&rsquo;m back today to tell you about another purchase from the discount store.</p><p>Yesterday I took the big plunge: I bought an electronic device there&mdash;the new $99 Aldi Medion Lifetab tablet to be exact.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not like buying sushi or a replacement heart valve at a discount store. But it&rsquo;s a risky purchase nonetheless. The thing is, my &nbsp;daughter wanted a tablet for Christmas, and I wasn&rsquo;t ready to spend super big bucks on a 10-year-old who &ldquo;forgets&rdquo; things at school, camp and her friend&rsquo;s house all the time.</p><p>So, while loading up on wine, cheese, asparagus and mushrooms at Aldi yesterday, I added a computer tablet to my cart. (Did you ever think you&#39;d read that sentence?) &nbsp;</p><p>Being unable to delay gratification of any kind, I gave the tablet to my daughter as soon as I got home. It serves as her &ldquo;big&rdquo; Christmas gift, a way to get the e-books she needs for school--and an opportunity to review this tablet for you the day after its release.</p><p>For those who don&rsquo;t already know the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/10/aldi-tablet-review-medion-lifetab-android" target="_blank">specs of this cut-rate device</a>&mdash;already sold-out in the UK&mdash;you can read these <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25299602" target="_blank">reviews by overseas techies</a> who know their way around megapixels, RAM and gHz. What I will give you here is the verdict from mom and daughter who&#39;ve played with it for 24 hours.</p><p>Here are some things we discovered:</p><ul><li>The 7-inch screen gives you a much smaller picture than that of an iPad mini--and certainly a full- sized iPad--and the resolution isn&rsquo;t great. But it didn&rsquo;t stop the 10 year old from binging on her favorite videos right away.</li><li>You can download an Amazon Kindle app, but the device already comes with a &ldquo;Play Books&rdquo; app that my daughter used to read her download her books within 15 minutes of opening the box.</li><li>The charger uses a standard microUSB port, which already matches lots of other electronics in the house, including my Samsung phone. Yay!</li><li>At 8GB, the storage on this tablet can fill up fast, but you can add up to 64GB with a micro SD card--for which you often pay about a buck per GB.&nbsp;</li><li>You can use the finger-swiping typing style (standard on the Samsung Galaxy) on the keyboard here, making typing here a lot faster than on my iPad. You can also add a bluetooth-enabled keyboard.</li><li>The camera is not great. With 2 megapixels on the back and .3 on the front facing camera, you need to hold it very still and take pictures in good light to get a decent shot.</li><li>There is no 3 or 4G capability on the tablet so you need to be connected to local Wi-Fi to use any of the internet functions.</li><li>There don&rsquo;t seem to be a ton of accessories available for the Medion in the U.S. Most stuff I&rsquo;ve seen online comes from the U.K.</li><li>The tablet comes loaded with dozens of apps including a drawing and painting app that my daughter took to right away. And, hilariously, it comes with a prominent Aldi app that keeps her up to date on all the new and upcoming sales.</li><li>Is this tablet as good as even my old iPad 2? Nope. But it does a lot more than the tablet I had when I was 10--which was called an Etch A Sketch!</li></ul><p>And, at about half the price of its higher memoried twin, the Nexus 7, this Medion is just fine for its intended user.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and the co-host of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a> podcast. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 13:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/should-you-buy-tablet-aldi-109369 So long, and thanks for all the fish http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-03/so-long-and-thanks-all-fish-106180 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/8574520000/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/calumetfisheriessalmon.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Smoked salmon at Calumet Fisheries in Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><p><u><a href="http://aldi.us/us/html/service/11453_ENU_HTML.htm">Batavia-based ALDI</a></u>, Trader Joe&#39;s, and Whole Foods have pledged not to sell so-called Frankenfish in response to a campaign by 30 consumer and environmental groups, including <a href="http://www.foe.org/gefreeseafood"><u>Friends of the Earth</u></a>.</p><p>Remember when I said <u><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-01/rip-food-trucks-top-5-trends-2013-plus-one-wish-104644">Frankenfish is the new pink slime</a></u>?</p><p>As a reminder, &quot;<a href="http://www.aquabounty.com/products/products-295.aspx"><u>AquAdvantage&reg; Salmon (AAS)</u></a> [unfortunately acronymed IMHO] include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.&quot; The <a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0003"><u>FDA says it&#39;s safe</u></a>, but critcs fear a <em>Jurassic Park</em>-esque scenario if the genetically engineered farmed salmon ever escape into the wild. [BTW did you know&nbsp;<u><a href="http://www.jurassicpark.com/"><em>Jurassic Park 3D</em></a></u>&nbsp;hits theaters April 5?]</p><p>At issue are not only the fish, but that they would not require labelling as genetically engineered.</p><p>AquaBounty Technologies, the biotechnology company developing AAS, is also working on genetically engineered&nbsp;trout and tilapia. You may remember in the recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/chicago-seafood-shoppers-duped-mislabeled-fish-105671"><u>fish fraud reports</u></a> that tilapia is the most common substitute for snapper.</p><p>If you&#39;d like to let the FDA know what you think, you&#39;re in luck: the comment period has been extended until April 26. <u><a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FDA-2011-N-0899">Click here to &quot;Comment Now!&quot;</a></u>&nbsp;You might be asking yourself, &quot;<u><a href="http://www.regulations.gov/#!faqs">Do my comments make a difference?</a></u>&quot; Why, that happens to be an FAQ. The answer: &quot;Yes.&quot;</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/louisachu"><u>Follow Louisa Chu on Twitter.</u></a></em></p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-03/so-long-and-thanks-all-fish-106180