How Does Aldi Get Away With So Many Copycat Products?

Aldi grocery store aisle
Aldi grocery store aisle - Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock

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Aldi is known for its minimalistic stores and low prices. Shoppers flocked there as recent inflation rates and food prices climbed, searching for a way to buy groceries without breaking the bank. What keeps people coming back are those low prices and copycat products that taste like the real thing. People want the same things they can find at Whole Foods or Wegmans but cheaper and with the same quality they're accustomed to, so places like Aldi do that for customers. But if you wonder how it can get away with selling so many copycat products, there's an explanation.

Aldi does a very good job of ensuring that it doesn't outright copy or steal another brand's intellectual property, which includes everything from marketing and branding to recipes. It's called brand imitation, and it's not illegal, but it is a very fine line to tread. The key to this strategy is to have just enough difference in packaging, branding, and ingredients to avoid a lawsuit, which is called comparative advertising. So long as there's no deliberate deception on the part of the imitator, it's okay. This is why when you're shopping at Aldi and see a package of Aldi's Benton's Cookies 'N' Cream, you know you're buying, well, you know very well what you're buying.

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Aldi Is Banking On Your Brand Recognition To Make Purchases

A woman shopping at Aldi
A woman shopping at Aldi - columbo.photog/Shutterstock

Manufacturers spend a lot of money to develop memorable, attention-grabbing branding on their packages, ensuring you immediately recognize the product. It's far more common to trademark brand names and logos; it's not so common to trademark packaging and product shapes. Aldi and other budget stores take advantage of this by taking cues from well-known brand packaging and logos and tweaking them for their own branding, then choosing a different name. This way, Aldi doesn't need to spend millions on developing a recognizable brand and a reputation -- it's already been done for them. They can count on shoppers to recognize what they're buying and skip buying the name-brand products in favor of Aldi's private brand.

But it's the lower price tag that's important. The recognizable packaging might give shoppers the mental nudge to try the product while keeping the name brand in mind when using it. Experiencing the same taste and performance of the name brand but for a fraction of the price might convince some shoppers to make the switch permanent. When it comes down to it, the shoppers win. The brand recognition Aldi takes advantage of helps shoppers; the strategy gives consumers more choice between a more expensive name brand or something cheaper that does the same job.

Copyright Infringement Lawsuits Aren't Common, But They Do Happen

An aisle at Aldi
An aisle at Aldi - Grand Warszawski/Shutterstock

You may think that such seemingly deliberate infringement would bring about plenty of huge scandals, but for the most part, it doesn't. The name brand would have to prove that Aldi deliberately misled consumers, which is difficult to prove. Shoppers are well aware of how Aldi markets its private label products, so it becomes even more difficult. However, sometimes this isn't enough for some manufacturers and brands.

In 2001, the snack food company Frito-Lay was unhappy about Australian Aldi's version of its Twisties, called Cheezy Twists, and filed a trademark infringement suit, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. After Frito-Lay was handed an initial victory, Aldi appealed in an Australian federal court and won. Even though the Cheezy Twists were geared toward people who ate Twisties, there wasn't enough evidence to prove that Aldi's brand was deliberately deceiving or confusing customers and infringing on Frito-Lay's trademark.

More recently, according to the BBC, Marks & Spencer and Aldi reached a settlement over Aldi's Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake, which is similar to Marks & Spencer's own Colin the Caterpillar cake. The British retailer took issue with the similarities and filed suit to protect the trademark, which Aldi stopped selling its version of in 2021. After the settlement, each retailer returned to selling their versions of the caterpillar cakes.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.