Ensuring premium quality – every day
Our performance promise “the highest quality – the lowest prices” convinces our customers that high-quality products need not be expensive. We make no compromises when it comes to quality – neither in the production and taste of our food, nor in the functionality and safety of our non-food products. The quality of the own-brand products in the ALDI North Group is frequently confirmed in independent tests. Our customers appreciate this. In Germany, we are the retailer with the longest customer loyalty. 91 percent of our German customers have already been doing their shopping with us for ten years or more. In Belgium, 80 percent of consumers shop at our stores at least once a year.
Quality is a key element of the buying policy at the ALDI North Group and it is a well-established component in our mission statement “Simply ALDI”. We have established comprehensive quality processes at all levels of our value chain in order to ensure that only high-quality products are presented on our shelves. We join forces with our suppliers to develop our own brands, implement high quality standards and align ourselves with the wishes and desires of our customers. For example, we regularly adapt the recipes of our food to modified nutritional requirements – both in terms of taste and considering the requirements of healthy diets. The continuous improvement in our product quality is the central ambition of our quality assurance.
Every day, the ALDI North Group works behind the scenes to ensure that all products meet the very highest quality standards. In order to achieve this, we have implemented a multistage monitoring system in which quality managers, buyers, accredited independent testing labs, suppliers and warehouse and store employees are integrated. Each product is tested a number of times. Our suppliers are subject to comprehensive requirements. We deploy a range of different quality measures to check compliance with these quality standards, such as on-site checks, product samples and tastings. At the same time, tests are carried out on our products by testing labs. Test certificates confirm flawless quality. Complete quality assurance is ensured by comprehensive incoming-goods inspections and inventory checks in the distribution centres and stores. We also ensure maximum after-sales quality for our customers. We accept customer feedback and seek to provide our customers with the best possible solution. If customers make complaints we adopt a fair and tolerant approach.
The highest standards have been established throughout the ALDI North Group
Clearly defined guidelines and responsibilities guarantee the highest quality standards throughout the ALDI North Group. The nine countries of the ALDI North Group are responsible for implementation of our quality standards. They ensure that specific national characteristics – for example requirements under statutory food regulations – are taken into account. Topics with overarching relevance, such as supplier certification, nutrition labelling or the Detox campaign are prepared by ALDI Buying and agreed throughout the ALDI North Group. Regular communication between the quality managers ensures that knowledge and experience are shared throughout the ALDI North Group. There is also close communication within the countries between Quality Assurance, Buying and the regional companies.
We are only able to fulfil the performance promise of the ALDI North Group nationwide if our high quality standard is put into practice by everyone involved in routine work within the company every day. All employees at the distribution centres and the stores regularly take part in training sessions. This training is used to gain a better understanding of operational hygiene measures and it can be supplemented with individual training sessions on merchandise knowledge or on the quality of individual product groups, such as fruit and vegetables, or other fresh products.
Ensuring quality over the entire value chain
The quality assurance of the ALDI North Group in Germany covers all stages of the value chain: from the selection of products and suppliers, through manufacture and warehousing of goods, to sale in our stores. All the companies forming part of the ALDI North Group are focused on this process and take account of the specific framework conditions in their countries.
Product and supplier selection: stringent standards demand high quality
Our products can only comply with the highest requirements if all our suppliers share the same understanding of quality. When we put contracts out to tender we already define key quality parameters and provide our suppliers with transparent information about them. We develop some of our products in cooperation with suppliers. As soon as one of these products is ready to order, the quality aspects previously agreed on are defined in a contract. When the purchase order is placed, suppliers are committed to compliance with our quality, social and environmental standards. We define strict benchmarks and demand significantly more quality aspects than those defined in the statutory regulations, for example in reducing the use of pesticides or additives.
Our suppliers must guarantee to comply with all standards along the entire supply chain. This means that they must provide verification of their own processes for quality assurance and also take responsibility for ensuring that their upstream suppliers are aware of our standards and comply with them. We also require product samples to be tested by independent testing labs. For example, correct fit and colour fastness are tested for textiles, meat content and filling quantity are checked for meat salads. The supplier regularly submits the test results to the ALDI North Group. At the same time, we observe and track the latest events which might exert an impact on food quality or availability, such as reports on food adulteration. In these cases, Quality Assurance at ALDI Buying proactively launches special investigations for the affected products with independent testing labs.
The majority of our products have been awarded quality seals or seals of approval. Depending on the product group, we require a range of different certificates from our suppliers. Food suppliers must be certified in conformity with the Food Standard of the International Featured Standards (IFS) and must participate in unannounced IFS Food Checks. The requirements of the GLOBALG.A.P. apply to agricultural producers of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the standards of the QS Test System for fresh meat and sausages. Consumers can identify quality on the basis of acknowledged seals of approval on the products, including the GS test label (Tested Safety) and the seal LGA tested/LGA tested Quality. Quality Assurance at ALDI Buying keeps up with the latest developments through regular communication with organisations like GLOBALG.A.P. Quality managers are also actively involved in drawing up and developing these standards on the QS Specialist Advisory Council and the IFS Working Group.
Reducing pesticides and protecting bees
Our suppliers must comply with strict regulations for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. We always go beyond the statutory regulations in these areas. Since 1 January 2016, for example, we have banned the use of eight active ingredients in the cultivation of German fruit, vegetables and potatoes because they were suspected of being responsible for the decline of flying insects like bees, butterflies and hoverflies (known as active ingredients toxic to bees). The objective is to actively promote the protection of bees in Germany and to reduce the use of pesticides. The ALDI North Group and the ALDI SOUTH Group had also invited representatives of producers, associations and organisations, plant protection advisors and agencies, and testing labs to a round table discussion on this issue. A practical approach to a solution was worked out which takes account of protection of bees and agricultural requirements. Our suppliers were already informed in 2015 about the requirements applicable from 2016.
Manufacture: local checks provide security
While production is in operation, the suppliers are responsible for taking appropriate measures in order to ensure a uniform high level of quality. Regular investigations by external specialist experts provide documentation for this. Suppliers of the ALDI North Group also have to allow checks at the production facilities while their facilities are in operation. This also applies to any upstream suppliers. One of these measures involves the quality managers and/or buyers of the ALDI North Group gaining an impression of the production conditions, the production setup and hygiene at the local facility. They demonstrate a local presence and strengthen supplier loyalty as a result.
We also introduce additional inspections of production facilities by external auditors where special events or circumstances make this advisable. If any doubts occur about compliance with our high quality requirements, the supplier must ensure that the relevant causes are clarified so as to avoid this situation in the future. We strive to create long-term cooperation with our suppliers based on partnership – this is why we support them in identifying a solution if there are any problems.
Incoming goods: initial checks in the logistics centres
As soon as the goods have been supplied to the distribution centres, our regional companies take responsibility for quality testing. All the regional companies carry out their own incoming goods checks. Depending on the type of product, different quality attributes are tested. We also regularly use independent experts, particularly in the product group fruit and vegetables.
We apply a number of checks to test all food including any striking visual defects and – if necessary – the temperature. We also check filling quantities and packaging, as well as concrete details of minimum use-by date. Every delivery of fruit and vegetables is checked for issues like level of ripeness, rotting, and pest infestations. Damaged goods are rejected. We take measurements of the core temperature and document the results for random samples from deliveries of all refrigerated articles. Our employees carry out particularly careful checks on susceptible product groups. During downstream storage, the quality and freshness of the goods is continuously checked.
When non-food products are delivered, we check them for damage during transport as well as labelling and cleanliness. Random samples of products are also tested for operation and we ensure that there are no missing parts, deformations, scratches, cracks or discoloration.
Tested good taste
The taste of food is the primary deciding factor determining whether customers are satisfied with our products. Our aim is to ensure that our products taste at least as good as comparable brand-name products. We make use of the wealth of experience held by our experts in order to guarantee good taste. Regular tastings by employees in the ALDI buying companies with specially trained sensory responses ensure a high quality for taste. The sensory training of employees for participation in tastings allows them to take the requirements in different product groups optimally into account.
We use the tastings to regularly check the recipes of all products and to make any modifications if necessary. Several times a day, food from the standard and special-buy product ranges is tasted at ALDI Buying. These are supplemented by tastings at the regional companies. The focus of evaluation is on appearance, aroma, texture in the mouth and taste. Blind tastings are also carried out where products from our range are compared with similar products from competitors. We also use blind tastings to compare products from different suppliers.
In the stores: regular checks of product stocks
After the strict incoming goods inspections and quality checks at our distribution centres, the products are transported to our stores. Before they go on sale, our employees carry out further checks on the products in store. They inspect the products focusing on a number of aspects including visible damage. The goods already being displayed on the shelves are also continuously checked, for example for fungal infestation or damage to packaging. The minimum use-by date is also checked. Goods that can no longer be sold are regularly removed from the shelves.
After-sales: the “ALDI Guarantee”
Our commitment to the quality of our products does not come to an end after they have been sold. If customers are not satisfied with the quality of our products, we adopt a fair and tolerant approach and take back the items. We offer an uncomplicated exchange and guarantee arrangement with the “ALDI Guarantee”. We can draw important conclusions on product quality from complaints and grievances. If there are any findings causing concern, we rely on random sample tests in all product groups carried out by accredited, independent testing labs appointed by us. We request reports and action plans from our suppliers in order to avoid defects in the future.
Key figures: Public product recalls
The number of publically recalled products broken down into food and non-food products
The public recalls in 2015 affected products including deep-frozen strawberries in the food sector, and leather gloves in the non-food sector.
|Total||Recalls food||Recalls non-food||Total||Recalls food||Recalls non-food|
|ALDI North Group||16||14||2||26||20||6|
1 ALDI Belgium and ALDI Luxembourg are legally independent companies (see “About this Report“).
2 Six due to deficiencies relating to labelling requirements.
If we find that there are quality defects after we have started selling goods in spite of our checks, we immediately stop selling the products and remove them from the shelves. If there is any doubt about the safety of the products or there is a possibility of them causing harm to human health, we immediately institute recall campaigns. We inform our customers transparently, for example by means of posters in our stores. The procedure for recalls is subject to detailed statutory regulations.
Test rankings as a quality radar
External organisations regularly evaluate the quality of products sold by the ALDI North Group. For example, our products in Germany are frequently tested by consumer association Stiftung Warentest or the consumer magazine ÖKO-TEST. These organisations often apply stricter criteria than lawgivers. Most recently, our products also received good rankings with the Danish consumer council Tænk, the Spanish consumer and user organisation OCU and the Dutch consumer association Consumentenbonds.
Products promoted with Stiftung Warentest or ÖKO-TEST
Number of articles promoted with test results from consumer association Stiftung Warentest or consumer magazine ÖKO-TEST1
1 It is only possible to label products with test results in Germany and the data therefore only related to Germany.
We take average or poor results for our products very seriously. In such cases, we analyse the causes of the results very carefully and take action to introduce measures to bring about improvement if the criticism is traceable and justified. This can also lead to products being removed from sale on a precautionary basis.