Clark Howard: ‘Trendy’ doesn’t mean it’s pricey

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Milk consumption is dropping as more Americans shy away from the white stuff — even at a time when sales of cheese and yogurt are up.

What do people have against traditional milk? Well, the alternative medical community has painted milk in a bad light, for starters.

But at my home, we now buy organic milk. It may cost more, but it’s cheaper in the long run because of its extended shelf life. Organic milk is subject to ultra-high temperature pasteurization, unlike regular milk.

Other people I know prefer almond milk because it’s lower in calories and doesn’t need refrigeration when it’s unopened.

On a larger scale, discount grocers are on the march around the country, but some get a warmer reception than others.

After opening a new Trader Joe’s in Naples, Fla., people are now circulating petitions to get Trader Joe’s to come to other cities in Florida. The company just has that kind of mojo.

At the same time, Aldi plans to open in a suburban Houston location, but according to The Houston Chronicle, the locals were trying to keep Aldi out, claiming the store will lower property values, increase traffic and put their safety at risk.

The funny thing is, both Trader Joe’s and Aldi have common ownership and a similar business model. There’s an emphasis on private labels and a limited selection. But Trader Joe’s is fresh and hip with a focus on organic and natural, while Aldi is just about inexpensive groceries.

In reality, if those people visited an Aldi, they’d see a clean, well-lit store and parking lots. Aldi appeals to both rich and the poor, typically leaving out the vast middle. That’s nothing to hate on Aldi about, though.

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website. And get more savings tips from Clark’s previous blog posts.

– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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mystery poster

January 10th, 2013
9:04 am

I remember being very surprised when I found out that Aldi owned Trader Joe’s. Then, I realized just what you said, that they have a very similar business model: small stores with mostly their own brands.

The first Aldi I went to was in 6 years ago in Charlotte, and it was exactly what those in Houston were trying to avoid, dirty and disgusting, yuck. They opened a new one near my house last year and I found it to be just like you said: clean, well lit, etc. It’s right on my way home, and since the stores are small it’s a very quick stop if I just need a few things. I don’t have to fight my way through the lawn furniture to get to the milk.

I love Trader Joe’s, I wish there was one closer to me. Their red-label dark chocolate is exquisite.