Aldi is a leading global discount supermarket chain with almost 10,000 stores in 18 countries, and an estimated turnover of more than €50bn. Based in Germany, the chain was founded by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht in 1946 when they took over their mother's store in Essen which had been in operation since 1913; it is one of the world's largest privately owned companies.
The brothers built up a chain of stores until, by 1960, they owned 300 shops, and split the operation into two separate groups, that later became Aldi Nord, headquartered in Essen; and Aldi Süd, headquartered in Mülheim an der Ruhr. The two operate independently, each within specific areas.
In 1962, they introduced the name Aldi (a syllabic abbreviation for Albrecht Diskont), which is pronounced . In Germany Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd have been financially and legally separate since 1966, although both divisions' names may appear (as if they were a single enterprise) with certain store brands or when negotiating with contractor companies. The formal business name is Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Compagnie, oHG.
The individual groups were originally owned and managed by the brothers. Karl Albrecht (d. 2014) retained ownership of Aldi Süd, and with a personal wealth of €17.2 billion, making him the richest man in Germany, while the co-owners of Aldi Nord, Berthold and Theo Albrecht Jr., close behind at €16 billion. Dieter Schwarz, owner of Lidl and Kaufland came in third, with a fortune of €11.5 billion.
Aldi's German operations consist of Aldi Nord's 35 individual regional companies with about 2,500 stores in western, northern, and Eastern Germany, and Aldi Süd's 32 regional companies with 1,600 stores in western and southern Germany.
Internationally, Aldi Nord operates in Denmark, France, the Benelux countries, the Iberian Peninsula, and Poland, while Aldi Süd operates in Ireland, United Kingdom, Hungary, Switzerland, Australia, Austria and Slovenia (Aldi Süd operates as Hofer within the latter two countries mentioned). Both Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd also operate in the United States; Aldi Nord is owner of the Trader Joe's chain, while Aldi Süd operates as "Aldi".
In December 2002, a survey conducted by the German market research institute Forsa found 95% of blue-collar workers, 88% of white-collar workers, 84% of public servants, and 80% of self-employed Germans shop at Aldi. One of Aldi's direct competitors internationally is Lidl.