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 warehouse clubs. Trader Joe’s also offers lower prices than most supermarket chains, while earning mostly high accolades from its customers.

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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 below shows the results of these comparisons:

  • ALDI’s prices were an astounding 44 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 36 percent lower than the all-store average. Prices at ALDI and Lidl were even lower than what we found at warehouse clubs—without having 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 supermarket chains. Its prices were about 28 percent lower than Whole Foods; 21 percent lower than Safeway; 14 percent lower than Giant, Harris Teeter, and Wegmans; and six percent lower than Target.
  • For ALDI and Lidl, these savings come with a downside: ALDI was rated relatively poorly on many aspects of quality; Lidl’s ratings were better, but not stellar. But even ALDI’s low score was better than those for Safeway, Target, and Walmart 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 questions on produce and meat 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 42 percent of the items in our market basket and ALDI carried only 55 percent; but Lidl did stock 67 percent of our products.