Update May 2016: Aldi has listened to customers and has now phased out cage eggs.
In Australia, supermarkets are normally a duopoly between Australian retailers Coles and Woolworths. However, things are changing. I have been shopping at Coles and Woolworths for many decades and suddenly there are foreign discount retailers like Costco and Aldi.
I remember visiting Aldi maybe a year ago and was shocked at how plain the place was. I admit I was a bit of an elitist and was turned off by the sort of people who shopped at Aldi. They seemed to do all their shopping on the weekend and when they shopped they purchased everything in bulk whereas I was there to just buy one box of tea.
My father also didn’t seem to be a fan of Aldi, saying they didn’t offer good brands. He also claims that whenever there are discounts offered at Coles and Woolworths, the prices are often cheaper than that found in Aldi or Costco.
Nevertheless, I decided to give Aldi a try. I went there and purchased almond milk and soy milk. I was surprised at the cost. One liter of almond milk was A$2.19 and and one liter of soy milk was A$1.09. This was about two to three times cheaper than the almond and soy milks in Coles and Woolworths.
Aldi also seems to be vegetarian and vegan friendly. Virtually all their products had vegetarian or vegan labeling on them, making them easy to identify.
I don’t drink much soy milk. I used to believe that soy was filled with estrogen and would give me manboobs, but after looking deeply into the soy and estrogen issue, I started to believe that soy was safe (see Does Soy Phytoestrogen Give You Manboobs?).
So I was a convert. I started buying almond milk from Aldi. I was annoyed that Aldi applied a surcharge if you used PayPass as I am effectively cashless nowadays and I was unhappy with withdrawing cash, handling dirty notes, and keeping coins in my pocket (Coles and Woolworths do not charge a surcharge for use of PayPass). However, I have since found that if you buy products carefully, the surcharge on PayPass or other credit card transactions can actually be less than the rounding up, so if you really want to save money, you need to make sure you pay in cash and make sure that you purchase an amount that ensures there is rounding down. I may write a separate post on this topic as I don’t want to go into too much detail here.
Recently, Aldi has been criticized for using cage eggs rather than free range eggs and not committing to reduce or phase out cage eggs at all. In fact, Coles and Woolworths have made commitments to reduce or phase out cage eggs. This issue has blown up on the media.
So this presents me with a tricky situation. I love Aldi, and they have lots of vegan options. They also have good prices on products. I don’t eat eggs at all, even free range eggs. However, animal welfare is amount making incremental improvements, so moving from cage eggs to free range eggs is a step in the right direction, but even in farms with free range eggs, male chicks are thrown into blenders alive because they don’t lay eggs.
Ever since this issue came up, I have not purchased any milk from Aldi, but I have set up a Google Alert to keep me updated on the issue because I will go back to Aldi if they commit to improving animal welfare. Whenever I go to Coles or Woolworth and look at the price of soy milk or almond milk, it seems as if the prices have gone up even higher. My guess is that I am not the only one suddenly buying vegan milk from Coles and Woolworths rather than Aldi, and Coles and Woolworth see an opportunity to raise prices because customers who buy for ethics are often very willing to pay extra.