German-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in the United States, and their influence can be seen across all industries. From cuisine to businesses to holidays and traditions, Germans have brought many of their customs and products to the US – including grocery stores.
Two of America’s largest grocery store chains, Trader Joe’s and ALDI, were under the management of two German brothers who ultimately split up ownership.
In 1913, Anna Albrecht opened a small store near Essen, Germany. When her sons Karl and Theo came of age, they both started work in the food industry. While Theo worked in his mother’s store, Karl gained experience in a delicatessen. After the Second World War, the two brothers took over their mother’s business together, naming it Albrecht Discount (in short: ALDI).
By 1950, thanks in part to the Marshall Plan, business in postwar Germany was booming and the brothers’ discount supermarket had expanded to 13 locations. By 1960, they had about 300 stores throughout much of West Germany. But the brothers didn’t always get along, and in 1960 they clashed over whether or not they should sell cigarettes in their stores. As a result, the brothers divided the company into Aldi Nord (“north”) and Aldi Süd (“south”), splitting up ownership by region. Theo claimed ownership of the north, while Karl took over the south.
Over the years, both grocery store chains expanded internationally, opening locations across Europe, the U.K. and even as far away as Australia and the United States, opening its US headquarters in Iowa in 1976. In the US, Aldi Süd simply goes by the name ALDI, and has about 1,300 locations across the country. Aldi Nord, on the other hand, operates under the name Trader Joe’s and has about 418 locations.
Both stores have seen success in the U.S. While ALDI prides itself on its overall low prices, Trader Joe’s has become known for its affordable organic food selections. A 2013 Market Force Information study found that Americans ranked Trader Joe’s as their favorite grocery store, with Publix, Whole Foods, Wegmans and ALDI also ranking high.
Both Karl and Theo Albrecht passed away in recent years, but their grocery chains continue to expand in both the U.S. and Germany.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy