Food retailer Aldi is known for its low prices, high quality, small stores and exclusive brands. But it represents something else as well.
The company is one of the best U.S. examples of a retailer that combines discount pricing with a big commitment to health and wellness. The impact is fairly large because this global company operates more than 1,600 stores across the United States, and is on a growth spree with remodels and newly added stores.
Lately, much of its wellness efforts have been focused on supporting kids’ health through partnerships with U.S. schools. Aldi, whose U.S. operations are based in Batavia, Ill., has done its homework to understand the needs.
“We like to think of ourselves as an ally for our customers in better-for-you shopping and living, and believe that access to nutritious food and physical activity should be available to kids everywhere,” Liz Ruggles, Aldi spokesperson, told Drug Store News.
Aldi’s initiatives are seen as differentiating the retailer in the highly competitive U.S. food retailing business. A wide range of retailers — from grocery stores to drug stores and supercenters — are vying for the consumers’ food dollars. Moreover, Aldi itself will soon face a new U.S. rival when its German-based global discount competitor Lidl launches here.
Aldi this year has nearly doubled its U.S. commitment to health-and-wellness programs for kids, with more than $2 million for partnerships, grants and education support.
Much of the activity stems from its ongoing partnership with Action for Healthy Kids, an organization that supports school health efforts. This includes $650,000 in “Parents for Healthy Kids” grants to “expand student access to in-school physical activity and nutrition programs,” the company said. Aldi’s strategy also involves national sponsorship of the recently held “Every Kid Healthy Week,” which “helps students make the link between nutrition, physical activity and learning.”
Moreover, Aldi is supporting the creation of a soon-to-be-launched online community called “Parents for Healthy Kids,” a program involving Action for Health Kids and National PTA. It also pursues other kids’ programs with Boys and Girls Clubs and operates a grant application effort for local organizations that support youth wellness programs.
So how does Aldi tie all this into the in-store experience? Ruggles said the company makes sure that health and wellness is communicated throughout its merchandising and marketing. She pointed to the following initiatives:
- Growing the selection of organic produce, including bananas, apples, tomatoes, avocados and salad mixes.
- Healthier check lanes that “replaced the usual impulse treats like candy and chocolate with smarter options like single-serve nuts and trail mixes, dried fruits and assorted granola bars.”
- Elimination of added MSG, certified synthetic colors and partially hydrogenated oils from exclusive brand items.
- Growth of three product lines: SimplyNature, which is free from more than 125 artificial ingredients; liveGfree, a gluten-free line; and Never Any!, a fresh meat line that eliminates additives.
These in-store programs aren’t just focused on food. For example, as part of its program called Aldi Finds, the retailer recently promoted merchandise that inspires shoppers to be active outdoors, such as kick balls, Frisbees, insulated hydration bottles cool gel shoe insoles and wireless bike computers.
Pursuing wellness efforts geared to kids helps set Aldi apart from the intense battles on the retail front. It’s a good reminder to all kinds of retailers that unique approaches to health and wellness are big differentiators in the marketplace.
David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries. To read last month’s blog post, click here.