The Humble Beginnings Of The Aldi Brothers

Competition between grocery stores is fierce. Owing to the prosperity and increasing market control of discount chains such as Aldi, traditional supermarkets are being forced to fight the rising wave of high quality goods sold at absurdly low prices.

But it took Aldi a long time to grow to its current huge presence of more than 2,000 stores (and that's just in the US — via Aldi's website). Aldi officially began life in 1961 (via CNBC), but the history of its founders, brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht, goes way back to the beginning of the 20th Century (via Business Insider).

Aldi can trace its roots back to 1913 when Karl and Theo's mother, Anna Albrecht, launched a tiny grocery store in Essen, Germany (via Aldi Recruitment). The shop was called Albrecht Discount (later shortened to — you guessed it — Aldi) and was taken over by the brothers in 1948 (via Business Insider).

The Aldi brothers struggled through ill health, the Great Depression, and war

Although the family shop was managed well by Theo and Karl's parents, a problem occurred when their father was struck down with emphysema, leaving him unable to work and Anna in sole charge of the store (via The Independent). Stories about how their father contracted the disease differ — while some report he was a miner (via The New York Times), an interview with Karl Abrecht in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine concluded that he had always been a grocer.

As a child, Karl suffered his own battle with tuberculosis (via Frankfurter Allgemeine), but gradually fought it off and became strong enough to join Theo selling freshly baked buns by hauling a wooden handcart across the local community (via The New York Times). To tackle the financial woes of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Albrechts gained a licence to sell liquor, making them extremely popular in the neighborhood and boosting revenue (via Aldi Recruitment).

Wartime service led to further trauma for Karl, who sustained a serious leg injury during fighting (via Frankfurter Allgemeine), but the brothers overcame their tortuous younger years, channeling their determination and eventually opening 300 stores in West Germany by the time they formally formed Aldi in the 1960s (via The New York Times).