That’s right, the neighborhood store your grandma took you to on weekends with the coin-exchange shopping carts, self-bagging area, and that quaint yet homey smell of low prices has gone green! On October 1, 2015, Aldi Supermarkets announced their strategic plan to position themselves as a cross between a health food store and a discount supermarket by targeting consumers who are apprehensive of their environmental footprint. Of course they never actually used those words, but they were very clear about the method to their marketing madness.
Upon first glance I was intrigued. As a young single mom feeling guilty about having contributed to our planet’s environmental crisis and feeding that contribution genetically modified organisms to save a few pennies, I was drawn to their appeal to “make healthy living easy and affordable”. “ ALDI- Exclusive Products: Food You Can Feel Good About”, an article that discussed to company’s commitment to improving the nutritional profile of their products detailed their newest plan to remove a number of undesirable ingredients from their stores.
However, after delving a bit deeper into the language of the message being communicated, I noticed a few micro-Greenwashing practices. For example, their claim to “have committed to removing certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and added MSG from all of our exclusive brand food products”, gives a green impression that doesn’t really exist because they go on to explain how 96% of their products are already free of monosodium glutamate and that the FDA has mandated the removal of Partially hydrogenated oils by U.S. food manufacturers. The article fails to mention the types of products that would replace these ingredients or the products that would still include dangerous additives like BHT and BHA.
The article also neglects to mention how this change will affect both the array and the price of products that will be available in the store. The removal of said ingredients may change the quality or availability of the products offered at Aldi Supermarkets. It may also be more costly to create the product using alternative ingredients, causing in increase in price for the buyer. Some may also argue that the stores transition is a form of gentrification in that it appeals to a more educated and health conscious audience.
I think it would be interesting to see how much my life would actually be influenced by driving a bit further to reap the proclaimed benefits of shopping at Aldi’s rather than spending money at the grocery store closest to me. Would I be healthier if I took advantage of products that are “clearly labeled so that customers can make informed decisions about their food choices”, or would I have gone the extra mile for the same health outcomes? Aldi’s change is an economic move. I think I would be more convinced if the company expressed the desire to generate a healthier population, but it was clear they their sole purpose is to get consumers to spend their money there. I can do that anywhere.
– Moriah Israel