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Aldi: In the Bag or Up in Smoke?

1946 Germany, right after the end of WWII. The nation is in trouble, and families are struggling to put food on the table. Enter Karl and Theo Albrecht, two brothers with a grand vision—to make quality groceries accessible to everyone.

But a brotherly scuffle is about to rapidly change the course of their business.

Should they fuel their meteoric rise by tapping into the tobacco market, or stick to their core values, potentially missing out on a golden financial windfall?

Discover what path the Albrecht brothers chose and learn how their choice solidified ALDI's legacy, in this month's Strategy Standoff.

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Background: A humble beginning in post-war Germany


In the ashes of Germany post WWII, the two brothers inherited their mother's modest grocery store in the city of Essen. With their nation challenged economically, they saw an unmet need: affordable, high-quality groceries for a struggling population.

Passionately committed to both value and quality, the Albrecht brothers designed a supermarket experience stripped of frills but packed with substance. No advertisements, no gimmicks, just walls of straightforward products at rock-bottom prices. It was the democratisation of groceries, and Germany ate it up.

With an expanding network of stores, the Albrecht brothers established their chain, quickly becoming synonymous with smart shopping. From fresh produce to household essentials, they offered reliability in an age of uncertainty.


The Strategic Challenge.


As the chain continued to expand, the Albrecht brothers needed to make some decisions to continue growing the company.

Theo proposed that the stores start carrying tobacco products to boost sales. Karl disagreed and felt that carrying these would attract shoplifters.

But it was more than just a disagreement; it was a standoff—each brother deeply entrenched in his position, neither seemingly willing to compromise on what was a pivotal decision for their business’ future.


Could they reach a middle ground that would sustain their momentous growth without compromising their core principles?

The Strategy Standoff

Strategy A: Split the Business

Splitting the business would allow Karl and Theo to independently pursue their visions.


Karl could focus on perfecting a no-frills grocery experience, while Theo could tap into the tobacco market for additional revenue.


However, this could risk diluting the brand and confusing their customer base.

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Strategy B: Forgo Tobacco

Choosing unity, the brothers could stick to their core values of offering affordable, high-quality groceries.


This approach would solidify customer trust but could mean missing out on a potentially lucrative new revenue stream from tobacco sales.


Not to mention the rift that had opened between the brothers could grow and become a bigger issue for their business.


So, Which Did They Choose?

Cast your vote to find out!

Good Job, Strategy A was chosen!

Better luck next time, Strategy A was chosen!

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But how did it work out for Aldi...

Expert Facilitator Commentary By Matt

Matt Braithwaite-Young

Managing Partner

t +61 2 9002 3100

If you've shopped at an ALDI in Australia, you've experienced the answer.

Remarkably, the brothers took Strategy A and decided to split their business into two entities, which became ALDI Nord and ALDI Süd.


Karl focused on the no-frills grocery experience and Theo broadened the product range to include tobacco and other goods.

Within a few years, both branches of ALDI experienced significant growth, not just in Germany but also expanding into international markets. They agreed to create an ‘ALDI equator’, splitting Germany and the world in half to avoid competing with each other!

However, the split added complexity. It brought challenges in brand consistency and required a careful approach to market segmentation and customer communication. However, the division turned out to be a sustainable long-term approach that has kept both ALDI Nord and ALDI Süd flourishing for decades.

ALDI's story serves as a nice lesson for leaders standing at a crossroads.  They invented a novel option and made it work.


If your strategy and plans need your team to be committed, Turning Leaf can help. We can help you develop plans that get done.


When you're ready to take your strategy to the next level, get in touch!

For more information on this case, read this article from the ABC.

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