The One Thing You'll Never See In Aldi Checkout Lanes

The checkout aisle of the grocery store is where you'll typically find the impulse buys — things the store would love for you to throw into your cart at the last minute to increase the purchase price. You might grab a few candy bars, some gum, a bottle of soda, magazines, or gift cards. But you won't have all those options at mega grocery store chain Aldi. 

In a 2015 report for the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled "The Food Industry's Sneaky Strategy for Selling More," authors Jessica Almy, J.D., M.S., and Margo G. Wootan, D.Sc. detailed just know much of an impact the offerings at checkout lanes can have on consumers. "Simply seeing a product can activate an urge to consume it, and the fact that a product is immediately available to be consumed can intensify this urge. The sight of food can trigger a desire to eat that does not reflect a physiological need for food," the report reads. "When food company researchers interviewed shoppers, 60 percent said they had bought candy and 45 percent said they had bought soda from checkout in the past six months. Most people who buy candy or soda from checkout do so at least monthly."

Why did Aldi pull junk food from checkout lanes?

While junk food impulse buys are obviously good for the retailers' bottom line, they're not so great for the consumer who's buying up all that extra candy and soda. As Jackie Gray, director of product services for food retail consulting firm Willard Bishop, told The Chicago Tribune, "A candy bar makes more money than an apple."

Higher profits notwithstanding, Aldi went on a health kick in 2016 and committed to removing all of their junk food from the checkout aisle by the end of that year (via Chain Storage). This means that at all of their stores you're no longer able to pick up a Baby Ruth or bottle of Coke right before you complete your purchase. But Aldi doesn't want you to go hungry or thirsty either. Like most of its competitors, the chain thinks the impulse buy aisle is good business, so it's decided to replace unhealthy items with quick and easy options that are better for you such as nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, and granola bars (via Reader's Digest). 

Apples might make less money, but at least these checkout offerings are ones Aldi can stand behind. "By introducing healthier check lanes and through a number of other initiatives, we are doing our part to remove temptation at checkout and stocking stores with even more nutritious options," said Aldi's CEO Jason Hart at the time.

Additional changes made by the company to promote healthy eating

The move was part of a broader push by the retailer to offer healthy options in their stores. The year before, Aldi removed artificial ingredients from their branded food offerings, which account for 90 percent of what you will find in Aldi stores. The grocer also banned synthetic coloring, partially hydrogenated oils, and added MSG from Aldi-brand foods. 

On top of these efforts, Aldi also banned the use of artificial growth hormones from milk and all dairy products such as yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese, and noted that Aldi-brand meat products don't contain antibiotics, hormones, animal by-products, or other additives. So, you'll have to try pretty hard to leave Aldi without a cartful of good-for-you food.