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We visited two of the best grocery stores in the US. Here’s why Aldi is better than H-E-B for the budget shopper who hates to shop.

We visited two of the best grocery stores in the US. Here’s why Aldi is better than H-E-B for the budget shopper who hates to shop.
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There’s a growing consumer need for a quicker in-and-out grocery experience, and Aldi’s small stores and limited supply meets that need extremely well.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

  • The Texas grocery scene is a crowded one, and the century-old, San Antonio-based H-E-B has long been one of Texans’ favorites.
  • But in 2010, the discount supermarket Aldi decided to expand its presence to the Lone Star State and has increasingly gained popularity among Texan shoppers since then.
  • Both Aldi and H-E-B have built loyal cult followings thanks to their low prices and private labels, and both are nearly neck-and-neck in a Market Force ranking of the best supermarkets in the country, with H-E-B only slightly ahead.
  • Aldi is reportedly poised to open 400 new US stores from coast to coast, with some of those planned for Texas — meaning Texas shoppers will have even more options to choose from for their grocer destination.
  • We visited both and found that while both are budget-friendly and H-E-B has way more variety across its departments, Aldi’s streamlined shopping experience could be what is pushing it forward in the retail race.
  • Here’s how the two chains compare and why Aldi is better than H-E-B for shoppers who want to spend less time shopping and pay less, too.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The company opened its first US location in Iowa in 1976. There are now more than 1,900 stores across the US with more planned for the coming years.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The store’s presence in Texas, however, is not as established. We visited an Aldi store outside of Austin, one of the few current locations in the Central Texas region.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The San Antonio-based H-E-B, on the other hand, has a century-old history in Texas and has repeatedly attracted national attention, despite only operating in Texas and Northern Mexico across 400 stores.

An H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The company has long embraced its strong Texan identity, one that resonates with its customers and has kept them coming back.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

That Texas pride is something Aldi seemed to have picked up on when we visited.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There were slogans and signage all around that clearly catered to the Texan shopper.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

This is what we saw when we first walked in. Aldi locations typically clock in at 16,400 square feet, so they’re not known for being large. Aldi’s shtick is all about limited options, small store sizes, and low prices.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The average size of an H-E-B store, on the other hand, is 70,000 square feet. This is what we saw when we first walked into an H-E-B Plus, which is larger than your average H-E-B store.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Another aspect is Aldi’s displays. The store often displays its merchandise in its delivery boxes. There also aren’t baggers at Aldi stores — you bag your own groceries at check-out.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

In the Market Force survey, Aldi won the best score for value. A carton of a dozen large grade A eggs cost 78¢ when we visited.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Over at H-E-B, it cost 88¢ for a carton of a dozen large grade A eggs.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There were 7-ounce bags of pasta priced at 25¢ at Aldi.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Bags of pasta a little more than double that size (16 ounces) cost 79¢ over at H-E-B.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

A gallon of whole milk at Aldi cost $1.58.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

While a gallon of whole milk at H-E-B cost $3.18.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

So prices were just a little lower in general at Aldi than they were at H-E-B.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

H-E-B’s brands, like Hill Country Fare, are a big hit with the chain’s customers.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

H-E-B’s take on Tostitos Lime-flavored chips is almost half the cost of its competitor’s.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And the company’s Cafe Ole coffee line is hard not to love.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Aldi’s brands may not be so easily recognizable though yet, which the company seems to be the first to admit.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

We spotted some big brand names at Aldi, like Kraft Singles cheese.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

But more than 90% of Aldi products are from private brands. The company won 200 awards for its private labels in 2017.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There’s Burman’s, which carries a ketchup product that looks stunningly similar to the Heinz label.

On the left is a Burman’s ketchup bottle inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas. On the right is a Heinz ketchup bottle in a different store.

Katie Canales/Business Insider/Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Lots of the private labeling at Aldi closely resembles some of the bigger box brand names. This Broegel Bock beer could easily be mistaken for Shiner Bock.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

We even saw the Shiner beer stocked just shelves below the Aldi beer.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There’s Clancy’s Stackerz Potato Crisps, which look like a Pringles alternative.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The chain’s SimplyNature label offers organic items, like this organic tomato basil pasta sauce.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The Little Journey brand offers baby products.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And there’s the liveGfree line of gluten-free foods.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There was a big focus on both gluten-free and organic products at H-E-B and Aldi.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

More grocery stores have upped their focus on healthy living to cater to health-conscious consumers, and H-E-B and Aldi haven’t skipped a beat on that trend.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There were these vegan, chickenless tenders at Aldi.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

H-E-B’s organic Central Market line carries whole milk for $2.98.

An H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And a carton of organic fat-free milk by Friendly Farms was priced at $2.69 at Aldi.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Overall, we found a wider selection of items at H-E-B than we did at Aldi.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There was an entire aisle at H-E-B devoted to pet products, for example. Granted, this was an H-E-B Plus, which has more merchandise across the board, but the pet section at regular H-E-B stores is still typically large.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

The pet section at Aldi was substantially smaller.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Busineess Insider

Similarly, there was a multi-aisle beauty department at H-E-B.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There were rows and rows of makeup products …

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

… and rows of hair products line the walls.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Most of the beauty items fit in a few shelves at Aldi.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And the brand names were recognizable — there were Suave and Pantene products, among others.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

H-E-B’s household goods section was also sizable …

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

… but we were also impressed by how many household goods were stocked at Aldi. There were aisles devoted to kitchen appliances and the like.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

We saw trash cans and mops.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

These pillows were priced at $7.99.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

And there was even a stationary exercise bike for $50.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

So though Aldi’s household goods section was more limited, like many of its sections were, it was easy and quick to navigate …

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

There’s a growing consumer need for a quicker in-and-out experience in general, and Aldi’s small stores and limited supply meets that need extremely well.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

On top of that, Aldi’s prices are super low, though H-E-B is still affordable.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

H-E-B may have much greater variety, but if you’re unfamiliar with a store’s layout, it can be overwhelming to navigate.

Inside an H-E-B store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

It’ll be interesting to see if Aldi increasingly becomes a favorite amongst Texans.

Inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

At the very least, it’s catering to Texans with their favorite grocery items.

Cartons of the Texas favorite line of Blue Bell ice cream inside an Aldi store location outside of Austin, Texas.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

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