The Biggest Thing You Get Wrong About Trader Joe’s and Aldi

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

We recently poured out our thoughts on these flavor-blasted chili lime cashews from Aldi — namely, that we could have sworn they were the brainchild of the snack geniuses at Trader Joe’s. And then a lot of our readers wrote in with some thoughts of their own: A few super-passionate grocery shoppers pointed out that the resemblance isn’t at all surprising, especially because “Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by same company — just with different branding,” someone said.

Yes, it’s long been believed that Trader Joe’s and Aldi are under the same parent company (probably because both stores have low prices, good wine, and snacks that are totally extra). We actually thought so, too! Until we went straight to the source and asked an Aldi spokesperson for the truth.

Here’s the short answer:

“ALDI U.S. and Trader Joe’s are independently operated companies with no joint ownership.”

Here’s the long answer:

It’s clear that ALDI is pretty tight-lipped over the connection between the two stores: We pushed for more info and that was all we could get. So we did our own digging.

Aldi began as a single grocery store in Germany in the early 1900s. Decades later, the owner’s two sons expanded the one family owned and operated store into a chain of hundreds. As with many family companies, the brothers eventually had a business disagreement and decided to split the company geographically into Aldi Nord (north) and Aldi Süd (South). The two companies both own and operate various Aldi’s across Europe and the United States, but do so separately.

Meanwhile, Trader Joe’s began as a convenience store in California in 1958. A decade later, more locations opened across the state. In 1979 Aldi Nord acquired all Trader Joe’s in the United States, but continued to let them “operate independently.” On the other hand, Aldi Süd is the parent company of Trader Joe’s in Europe and Aldi locations in the United States. (Bear with me: I had to map this out Beautiful Mind-style on a Post-It note and am still doing mental gymnastics.)

In short, these two (or is it three?) grocery chains aren’t technically in cahoots. Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe’s in the States, but the Aldi stores that you see in the States are run by Aldi Süd, which is separate from Trader Joe’s. The chains are kind of like estranged cousins. Step-brothers? In-laws? We don’t know! But it doesn’t matter because the stores are run entirely independently with no joint ownership.