The Unexpected Connection Between Aldi And Trader Joe's

Shoppers can find a lot of interesting things at both Aldi and Trader Joe's stores in the United States but many people who shop them frequently are unaware of just how interconnected the brands are. Like with many popular grocery store chains, both of the grocers trace their histories back to family-run businesses that found great success. There's more to this relationship than just a similar backstory, though.

Aldi can trace its lineage to the Albrecht family in Germany that opened the first location after World War II. The Kitchn says the first Trader Joe's popped up in California in 1958. Both brands continued to expand individually throughout the next several decades (per The Kitchn). Today, Scrape Hero says in the U.S. there are nearly 2,200 Aldi locations and nearly 600 Trader Joe's stores. Both brands present uncommon offerings, like these unique Aldi chocolates and what Insider calls Trader Joe's iconic cookie butter.

But unique products aren't what really ties these grocers to each other. That's a story that spans back to the 1960s and involves a spat between family members on another continent.

A family feud, Aldi, and Trader Joe's

The Guardian recounts the history of Aldi, explaining how the Albrecht family opened its first market in Essen, Germany after World War II ended. Over the following two decades, the business started to grow. As can often be the case, then, the business came between a pair of brothers.

The Guardian says that in the 1960s, Karl and Theo Albrecht decided to split their 300-store chain into two distinct companies because of a difference of opinion over whether to offer cigarettes in the stores. Karl's company took over the stores in the southern part of the country and Theo's half would offer the tobacco products in northern Germany (per The Guardian). Thus, the companies known as Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd were born. The independent operation of the two companies continues today and that eventually involved Trader Joe's.

Aisle of Shame explains how Aldi Nord bought all the U.S. Trader Joe's stores from founder Joe Coulombe in 1979. However, Aldi Nord simply owns the franchise, allowing Trader Joe's to continue to operate as if it were an independent company to a large degree. This might confuse shoppers in the United States because Aldi Süd, which again has been a separate company since the 1960s, owns all the Aldi stores in the U.S. So, if someone asks you whether Aldi owns Trader Joe's, the appropriate question in response is, which Aldi do you mean?