Archive for 'I went shopping today'


I have grown up with a few motherhood statements and I am sure I am not alone with that. Here are three I remember from my early childhood; I was probably three years old…

1. Do not cut potatoes with a knife. (very German piece of useless etiquette)

2. Vegetables are good for you. (Debatable from a child’s perspective)

3. Money buys sweets, toys & icecream. (Later supplemented with beer, wine & cigars)

Money at the time was defined as folding stuff and round metal disks of various sizes which made a racket in one’s pocket – or fell out if one ‘s mother had not done her job properly.

In latter years, cheque books, credit cards, debit cards, chip cards and electronic transfers made it into my arsenal. Nothing, however, prepared me for this Dutch store that rejected my cash.

It looks like society is heading for a major paradigm shift in the not so distance future.


ALDI – 100 Years Young

aldi1I am in Germany right now and old habits die hard.  Which is why I am wandering through supermarket outlets observing, learning (hopefully) and thinking aloud, convincing the locals I am a lunatic causing some interesting reactions as I go.  ALDI Sued is celebrating its one hundredth birthday this month and the promotional brochure they issued for the occasion makes for some fascinating reading.

The “100” is a bit far-fetched as it was obviously not a supermarket journeyman baker Karl Albrecht opened in 1913 but a bakery!  The first grocer’s store was opened by his wife Anna Albrecht in 1916.  Still a far cry from being a supermarket.

Brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht took over the family store in Essen in 1945 and started the expansion process.  By 1948 four stores were in business and the first shop outside of Essen opened in 1954.

The brochure is full of interesting facts.  The chain separated into ALDI Nord und ALDI Sued in 1961 , each brother wandering off with a chunk of the family business.  ALDI, by the way, is the abbreviation for ALbrecht DIskont…Albrecht Discount.  The first of those discount branches were opened in 1962.  Based on the success of the original two discount two stores, the balance of the branch network across ALDI Nord & Sued were gutted refurbished accordingly in 1962/63.
Those early ALDI stores were pretty basic affairs… No shop fittings other than a till, no shelving, but all product arranged on pallets on the floor. No mor than 600 SKUs per store and certainly no deep assortments of any kind. This model, of course, opened up tremendous cost saving opportunities – and as ALDI insists – quality was never compromised from day 1.

In 1976 ALDI started selling General Merchandise specials to bring more foot traffic into their stores. 1983 saw the introduction of refrigerated cabinets for dairy products. Fresh produce joined the assortment in the mid eighties as well and in 1997 ALDI Sued started to sell frozen goods. German ALDI stores now stock circa 1000 SKUs. Scanning groceries at checkouts was not introduced until 2002, the year the Euro became a reality. Until then, checkout operators were required to memorise all prices!

In 2003 Germany introduced a new system related to refunds for empty bottles which saw ALDI Sued introduce automated receiving machines in their branches. Fresh meat became part of the range in 1986. and in 2007/2008, ALDI Sued and Nord joint forces to offer online services for flowers, photographs and travel.

In 2009 fully automated baking stations were introduced to the branch network and in 2010 returnable plastic crates made their debut in the produce departments.  In 2010 ALDI Sued published new business relationship policies which addressed the needs of customers, staff and suppliers. And by 2013, ALDI Sued has an 1800 store network across its designated area of Germany

Herewith endeth the party political ALDI broadcast….

ALDI SUED, by the way, is operating its stores as far away as Australia and for some years now the rumors are rife that an entry into the New Zealand market is due to happen.  Who knows.  If ALDI does come, the New Zealand supermarket landscape will change quite drastically.


How NOT To Sell Fruit & Veg

2011-11-14 15.46.05The media is full of Christchurch stories. Some positive, some anything but.  Government is breathing a sigh of relief after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the potential impact of the partial sales of Might River Power. A fair amount of the money Bill English hopes to realise through the sale is earmarked for the Christchurch rebuild.  Meanwhile the Christchurch City Council, which is apparently required to front up with 40% of the rebuild cost, has put a stake in the ground by announcing that it has no intention of financing its share of the rebuild through asset sales.

Across town, the Anglican Church has gone to court because it wants to use $4 million from its insurance payout to partially fund its cardboard cathedral, whilst a group of renegades clustered around the former supermarket trolley manufacturer Jim Anderton is lobbying to have the original cathedral restored rather than demolished.

In amongst all that macro-economic stuff the ordinary citizens and small business owners of Christchurch are trying to come to grips with why , how and when their homes are facing demolition, repair or compulsory aquisition. Not easy for anyone.  And not just in Christchurch.  The rest of us are watching and there is a fair amount of empathy.

Only – my level of empathy deteriorates at a rapid rate of knots when I come across scenes like the ones I am depicting in my photos here…

What has all the hallmarks of a classy greengrocer sits surrounded by empty sections in the middle of Christchurch.  People need to eat, even in a Christchurch in recovery mode.  One would think therefore that if one were a greengrocer with a bit of pride one would make sure all the outside displays were full and properly merchandised but that is clearly only partially the case here.  Ah well, may be I caught them on a bad hair day?  Hm, but how about this?  An over-sized blackboard with nothing but the price and the weight unit on display?  For over an hour at least?  Come on guys, show a little bit of an interest in what you are doing…


Hey, may be you were a bit busy… who knows.  What is totally unforgivable though is the rubbish display.  What are we trying to sell here? Fruit or garbage?  And in full sight as well.  That’s where I stop being sympathetic.2011-11-14 16.27.36



In a Chinese Supermarket – Part 2

This is what greeted me at the entrance of the supermarket:

5+ A DAY!

How about that for promoting fresh produce?


 This fruit carousel also had grower information on display.

Signage was a mixture of pre-printed and handwritten.


  Going fishing supermarket style!


In these supermarkets, fish on ice is considered 2nd grade product.

In a Chinese Supermarket – Part 1


Bananas pop up the world over.

Pictured here are locally grown Chinese ones.  The red tape prevents the customer from splitting the hands to suit themselves, leaving those single bananas that are the bane of a Produce Manager’s life.

I did not wait around to see if the display would be replenished as it needed to be…

Behind the bananas was this “bin” of nectarines.


I was intrigued to note the wide size range and the presence of foliage.  This suggests to me mechanical harvesting and minimal grading.

One could also say the condition of the leaves is an indicator of the freshness of the fruit.


These apples are a local variety – quite a pretty pink en masse like this.

To put things into perspective, that price equates to 87 NZ cents!  Overall, I found China to be relatively cheap.

Moving on, the deli counters were right next door to the produce department:



No, I have not strayed into the pet store.  Yes, those are live turtles and frogs.  How else could you be sure that they were fresh?


The bulk foods area was also near the produce and displayed in a fashion far more open than I am used to seeing back in NZ supermarkets.

Then I went past the shellfish counter…



Being kept waiting at the checkout can be the last straw for a busy shopper.


This blue line is the solution:  if there are customers behind this line of blue tiles, then more checkouts are opened – immediately.

Now, here is something I often say should still be seen in NZ supermarkets: the fresh produce weigh station.


Discerning shoppers the world over choose their fruit by look and feel.


 This also could be any supermarket in the world:



Signage varies around the store and I noticed that some nutritional information is starting to appear.