Santa Clarita will become the newest outpost of global discount grocer Aldi’s rapid expansion into California when it opens a store Dec. 15 on Orchard Village Rd., near Lyons Ave. in Newhall. In the last year, the German-based chain, known for low prices and limited selection, has grown from no stores in Southern California to 34, with more to come. Consistent with its strategy of building stores that are smaller than typical chain grocery stores, the Newhall store will only use about half the space of the Ralph’s Grocery that formerly occupied the site. A typical Aldi store is 10,000 – 11,000 square feet with four to five aisles, the company said. Aldi’s will host an open house Wed., Dec. 14, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and a ribbon-cutting at 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 15. The first 100 shoppers will receive a golden ticket, each containing Aldi’s gift certificates. “California customers who are new to Aldi might not recognize our brands, but they definitely will recognize the great taste and quality, and will love our everyday low prices,” said Gordon Nesbit, Moreno Valley division vice president. “It’s clear shoppers throughout the country, including those in the Southland, appreciate saving money on the groceries they buy the most, including everything from fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy and bakery items to organic and gluten-free foods. And it’s our approach to making great quality groceries affordable that has helped Aldi become one of the fastest growing retailers in the US. We look forward to our continued expansion across Southern California.” Frugality is a hallmark of the chain, with no-frill displays and no ancillary services like in-store banking, pharmacies, or check cashing. To help keep staffing levels lower than at most chain grocers, boxes are shipped to the stores with one side missing, so they can be stacked without needing to be opened, and shoppers pack their own groceries. Rather than pay staff to retrieve shopping carts from its parking lots, the chain charges a 25-cent deposit to use a cart, which is returned when the cart is returned to its corral in the store. While the company used to only provide a bare-bones shopping experience for the neediest customers, Aldi’s has evolved into a grocery store that combines contemporary design, trendier merchandise, and a growing selection of specialty items, according to Zack’s Investment Research, which called Aldi’s “the grocery chain of the future.” The chain is regarded as a competitive threat to a range of established retailers, including Walmart, Target and Whole Foods. Brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht founded Aldi’s (short for Albrecht Discount) in 1954 with one store in Essen-Schonnebeck, West Germany. By 1960, the brothers had built the brand into a chain of 300 stores, and split it into two operations. Today, Aldi Nord (North) operates in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Poland, Spain, Denmark, and Portugal, and owns specialty grocery chain Trader Joe’s in the U.S., while Aldi Süd (South) operates in the U.S., Austria, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and Switzerland. More than 90% of Aldi’s inventory is made up of its own private brands, all of which are free of certified synthetic colors, artificial growth hormones, partially hydrogenated oils and added MSG. The company is increasing its selection of fresh food and healthier items. To reassure shoppers who might be reluctant to buy private-label items, the chain offers will refund the cost and replace the product if customers don’t like an Aldi brand food. The chain focuses on high-volume items, including fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy and bakery items. With openings the same week in Long Beach and Escondido, Aldi’s will now have 34 outlets in California, all opened in the last year, along with a distribution center in Moreno Valley. Its other Los Angeles County stores are in Arcadia, Cerritos, Covina, Inglewood, La Puente, La Verne, Palmdale, South Gate, and Whittier. The company has more than 1,600 stores in 34 states.