The Connection Between Aldi And Trader Joe's You Never Knew

Out of a strong lineup of grocery stores, there are a few places some shoppers feel stand out among the best. Some love scouring these shelves so much that the markets themselves have ascended into more than just a place for groceries. Many have become places people genuinely love to go to, more of an adult amusement park than a supermarket, a place to gawk at for its affordability, convenience, or otherwise. 

To name some of these beloved stores, let's look at two that seem to top many shoppers' lists: Aldi and Trader Joe's. From the burgeoning TikTok fame of Trader Joe's for its unique finds under $5 to the affordability and no-frills simplicity of Aldi, these are two places shoppers can rave about for hours. They both have appeared on lists more than a few times as being one of the best grocery stores, including by USA Today in its report on the best supermarkets of 2021. While many people love to shop at both of these stores, most don't know that there's an unexpected connection between the two.

The humble origins of two of America's favorite markets

The connection between Aldi and Trader Joe's goes all the way back to both of their beginnings. The birth of the Aldi brand was in 1913 when the Albrecht family opened a family-owned grocery store in Essen, Germany (per Aldi). The market quickly became known for its low-priced, high-quality items. After spending a few years making a name for themselves across Europe, the Albrecht family's first location in America opened in 1976 in Iowa. This is when the store officially became known as Aldi, which is short for Albrecht Discount according to the Chicago Tribune. The store has been providing low-cost and exclusive products ever since, successfully turning a small local shop into a prosperous worldwide endeavor. 

Now per Reader's Digest, Trader Joe's got its start thanks to one man aptly named — surprise, surprise — Joe. Businessman Joe Coulombe opened his very first store in Pasadena, California in 1967 after acquiring a slew of empty convenience shops that were shut down by a pharmacy company. Seeing the potential for success, Coulombe decided to rebrand the empty stores himself and adopt a Hawaiian theme, a style that was popular at the time and strived to provide customers with exclusive and inexpensive products. Now over 50 years later, the legacy continues for both of these markets. 

The one big thing Trader Joe's and Aldi have in common

While it's obvious that both Trader Joe's and Aldi have prided themselves on value since the beginning, its similarities extend to a much deeper place than that. They both provide shoppers with exclusive products, sure, but that's probably not so unexpected to those that shop there. Apart from the unique products on the shelves, the two stores also share another quality. They've both owned by the same people.

According to Reader's Digest, Trader Joe's founder Joe Coulombe sold his business to Theo Albrecht in 1979, officially making the Albrecht family the proud owners of both prosperous markets. Since Aldi is split into two, per Forbes, Trader Joe's was officially bought by the Aldi Nord branch. According to Fortune, the family was initially drawn to the Trader Joe's brand because it seemed like a good investment opportunity, with its fanbase already growing immensely back in the 70s. The family has generally stayed out of the business side of things since, so Trader Joe's has continued to operate independently. While Coulombe still served as his store's chief executive for over a decade, he eventually retired.

Despite how big of a deal this purchase may seem considering each store's success, former owner Joe Coulombe told Fortune that he couldn't even remember the price he sold his store for. Today, the elusive Albrecht family still owns both of the successful chains.