Pent-up anticipation in Orange County for the debut of international grocery giant Aldi is about reach a crescendo.

The extreme discounter, which made its California debut two weeks ago in the Inland Empire, will open its next 10 stores April 21, including three in Anaheim, Fountain Valley and Buena Park.

The California store openings mark the beginning of Aldi’s march West. To date, Aldi has revealed 27 of its 45 California locations planned for this year.

Aldi executive Gordon Nesbit said the chain has not revealed where it’s scouting other locations, but during a phone interview this week, he confirmed Orange County will have more than three stores.

“There’s at least another dozen stores we’re pursuing,” said Nesbit.

Also opening April 21 are stores in Arcadia, Cerritos, Covina, Inglewood, La Verne, Palmdale, and San Bernardino.

Aldi said it expects more stores to open in the Los Angeles area and the Inland Empire.

The German-born Aldi, which has family ties to Trader Joe’s, operates 1,500 stores in 32 U.S. states. The chain, with its U.S. headquarters is in Batavia, Ill., sells private label copycats of the 1,500 most popular groceries. In California, stores will be larger and have a wider assortment of items including wine and produce.

When the first eight stores opened last month, thousands of curious bargain hunters made a grab for everything from raw chicken drumsticks to frozen pizzas to dog kennels. Stores from Palm Springs to Lake Elsinore stocked knockoffs of top-selling labels such as Heineken beer, cereals from General Mills and Pop-Tarts.

At the Palm Springs store, Aldi’s Millville Honey Nut Crispy Oats is $1.19, while the General Mills box of Honey Nut Cheerios costs $2.89.

The chain guarantees the quality of its low-price store brands, which Aldi says can save shoppers up to 50 percent on their grocery bills.

“Shopping at Aldi is risk free to consumers,” Nesbit said during a phone interview this week.

Aldi’s low-prices on popular goods poses trouble for other supermarket discounters. Industry analysts say Aldi is expected to hurt rivals whose only bargaining chip is low prices. That includes brands such as Walmart, Ralphs and dollar stores.

“If you are known for low prices and don’t differentiate yourself in assortment or service or goods and your whole mantra is about prices, you should be worried. Aldi will beat you on price,” said Craig Rosenblum, a grocery analyst and partner at Willard Bishop.

In California, Aldi is tweaking its store selections to satisfy local shoppers, Nesbit said.

Most Aldi stores carry about 1,500 items, but California stores will stock about 1,750.

Much of the beefed up selection is in the wine and produce departments. While most Aldi stores offer about 80 to 90 types of fruits and vegetables, California stores will have closer to 120. New items include key limes, baby mangos, chili peppers (poblano, serrano, jalapeno and Anaheim) and tomatillos.

Produce aisles also will carry more organic fruits and vegetables.

In a nod to the large Hispanic community, stores will be stocked with a larger assortment of Hispanic products. Some are name-brand products such as Goya and Jarritos.

Aldi works with food manufacturers across the U.S. to create its store brands, which are sold under the names Millville, Savoritz, Clancy’s, and Reggano. In many cases, products are made by the national brand that Aldi is trying to knockoff.

Fewer labor costs also keeps prices down.

Like the defunct British-born concept Fresh & Easy, groceries are sold in stacked shipping cartons. This eliminates the need to hire extra employees for stocking shelves. Aldi stores don’t have full-service butcher or bakery departments. Shoppers also bag their own groceries.

Nesbit said the chain is pleased, so far, with the reaction it has received from Inland Empire shoppers. The company has not made any adjustments to newly opened stores based on shopper feedback, he added.

“We’re only two weeks in. We’re still feeling out what is selling,” he said.

Register staff writer Hannah Madans contributed to this report.

Source: The Orange County Register