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Oct 27, 2016 12:35PM

Going green, saving green: Aldi ups its good-for-you goods

By Katy Williams
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The folks at Aldi are working to transition its offerings to include more organic and gluten-free options and more.
The biggest excuse I hear about a person's ability to eat healthy foods is how much food costs. It's cheaper to buy a $2 bag of Cheetos than it is to grab a $4 to $5 box of whole-food granola bars. And when you have food allergies, the difficulty to select foods increases. (Everything seems to have gluten, dairy, soy or nuts in it.)

As more people work toward healthier lifestyles, or are diagnosed with food intolerances, budgets are stretched as we try to stock our fridges with healthier options.

As a college student, I'm always looking for a way to save. I easily could spend an entire paycheck and a portion of my college tuition on healthy foods. At a coffee shop on campus, vegetables with dip and granola with yogurt cost three times as much as a Snickers bar.

But the struggle to find affordable, healthy food is starting to become a whole lot easier to manage. What once was a $200 grocery bill at stores such as Whole Foods or your nearest grocery store could now be less than $100 if you visit an Aldi grocery store. In recent years, the grocery store chain has made a huge transition.

As a child, I remember finding the basics at Aldi, such as fruit snacks, cereal, milk and the like. But now, Aldi carries organic and gluten-free lines of food; cage-free eggs; and is working to stock meats without antibiotics, added hormones, steroids and animal byproducts. In the last year, stores also began to carry almond, cashew and soy milk for customers who prefer dairy-free milk options.

"Our shoppers made it clear through both social media and our customer service channels that they're interested in fresh, local produce, organic options and gluten-free foods," says Kim Morrison, a spokeswoman for Aldi. "We're one of the fastest growing retailers in the U.S. As we expand, it's important that we have food to fit every shopper's lifestyle, from coast to coast."

According to an article published earlier this year by Business Insider, the low-cost retailer is fixing its "bigness weakness," and with prices that are 30- to 50-percent lower than big-box stores, that should "terrify Whole Foods."

Being a gluten-free shopper who also tries to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle, Aldi is my go-to place for groceries. Its Live Gluten Free and Simply Nature lines are on-par with prices for non-organic, non-gluten free food, if not lower. And, according to the Business Insider article, 90 percent of the food in the store is purely Aldi brand.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, so I sought a healthier, whole-food lifestyle in general to power me during my days filled with school, preschoolers and long, stress-relieving runs. The problem was, I didn't have the money to afford the more costly, less-processed food items beyond produce and peanut butter.

The same year, I stumbled into an Aldi's on a Saturday, and saw a plethora of whole-food items marked gluten-free. I remember taking pictures thinking I was dreaming. Little did I know, it was the beginning of the big transition for the stores.

The most recent move Aldi executed for its game plan was the removal of added MSG, certified synthetic colors and partially hydrogenated oils. Morrison notes that the store will keep moving to include more "feel-good foods," in addition to its current products.

To cut out temptation, Aldi also is introducing Healthier Checklanes in select stores, with plans to reach about 1,500 locations by the end of the year, according to a news release. These lanes will be stocked with single servings of nuts and trail mixes, dried fruits and granola bars instead of candy, the release states.

According to another news release, Aldi also has earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its environmentally sustainable distribution center and regional headquarters in Moreno Valley, Calif. The building includes on-site solar panels that provide 60 percent of its electricity; electric vehicle charging stations and bicycle racks; water-efficient landscaping and plumbing and more, the release states.

"To know Aldi is to love Aldi," Morrison says, "and our shoppers know that we save them time and money while offering their families premium quality groceries at affordable prices."
Katy Williams is an occasional Radish contributor.


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