German-based discounters ALDI and Lidl, ubiquitous in most of western Europe, continue to expand their U.S. footprints. Like Trader Joe’s, which is also a German-owned operation, these alt-grocers carry mostly their own brands, rather than national-brand products.
ALDI and Lidl focus on low costs, and our survey found their prices to be astonishingly inexpensive—cheaper even than Walmart and comparable to warehouse clubs. Trader Joe’s also offers lower prices than many traditional supermarket chains, while earning mostly high accolades from its customers.

Since the market basket we used for our price survey largely consists of national-brand products, and since these three companies offer mainly their own brands, we couldn’t compare their prices using our standard price survey. Instead, we had to shop each using a special survey that included the same fresh produce, meats, and dairy items in our standard survey, comparing the national-brand items on our list with the prices of these unique stores’ own brands. (When comparing prices, we used per-unit pricing—for example, price per ounce.)

The figure above shows the results of these comparisons:

  • ALDI’s prices were an astounding 40 percent lower than the all-store average for our full market basket including comparable national-brand items. Lidl’s prices were also among the lowest in our survey, coming in at 33 percent less than the all-store average. ALDI’s prices were lower than even BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club; and Lidl’s prices were lower than BJ’s and comparable to Costco and Sam’s Club—and when shopping at ALDI or Lidl you don’t have to buy in bulk to get these discounts.
  • Although its prices were higher than ALDI and Lidl, Trader Joe’s still offered savings compared to most traditional chains. Its prices were about 24 percent lower than Whole Foods, 22 percent lower than Wegmans, 18 percent lower than Acme, 14 percent lower than McCaffrey’s, 10 percent lower than Redner’s, nine percent lower than Giant, and slightly lower than ShopRite and Target.
  • For ALDI and Lidl, these savings come with a downside: Lidl was rated relatively low on many aspects of quality; ALDI’s ratings were better, but not stellar. But both these chains’ scores were still better than those for Acme, Food Lion, Giant, Redner’s, Target, Walmart, and Weis for our “overall quality” survey question.
  • Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, continues to earn highly favorable ratings from its customers overall, and relatively high ratings for our question on produce quality.
  • Unfortunately, many customers of these unique chains might have to make a second stop elsewhere to buy everything they need: Trader Joe’s carried only 49 percent of the items in our market basket; ALDI carried only 59 percent; and Lidl stocked 62 percent of our products.