Both Aldi and H-E-B have built loyal cult followings thanks to their low prices and private labels, and both are nearly neck-and-neck in a Market Force ranking of the best supermarkets in the country, with H-E-B only slightly ahead.
We visited both and found that while both are budget-friendly and H-E-B has way more variety across its departments, Aldi's streamlined shopping experience could be what is pushing it forward in the retail race.
Here's how the two chains compare and why Aldi is better than H-E-B for shoppers who want to spend less time shopping and pay less, too.
The Germany-based Aldi has quite the foothold in Europe: the store has its roots in discounted goods and has cemented its reputation in the region as the go-to supermarket for shoppers on a budget.
The company opened its first US location in Iowa in 1976. There are now more than 1,900 stores across the US with more planned for the coming years.
The store's presence in Texas, however, is not as established. We visited an Aldi store outside of Austin, one of the few current locations in the Central Texas region.
The San Antonio-based H-E-B, on the other hand, has a century-old history in Texas and has repeatedly attracted national attention, despite only operating in Texas and Northern Mexico across 400 stores.
The company has long embraced its strong Texan identity, one that resonates with its customers and has kept them coming back.
That Texas pride is something Aldi seemed to have picked up on when we visited.
There were slogans and signage all around that clearly catered to the Texan shopper.
This is what we saw when we first walked in. Aldi locations typically clock in at 16,400 square feet, so they're not known for being large. Aldi's shtick is all about limited options, small store sizes, and low prices.
The average size of an H-E-B store, on the other hand, is 70,000 square feet. This is what we saw when we first walked into an H-E-B Plus, which is larger than your average H-E-B store.
There were shopping carts outside of the H-E-B store free of charge like they are at most grocery stores.
But over at Aldi, shopping carts cost a quarter to rent while you're inside, though you get the quarter back once you return the cart. It's just one aspect of the no-frills grocery shopping experience.
Another aspect is Aldi's displays. The store often displays its merchandise in its delivery boxes. There also aren't baggers at Aldi stores — you bag your own groceries at check-out.
In the Market Force survey, Aldi won the best score for value. A carton of a dozen large grade A eggs cost 78¢ when we visited.
Over at H-E-B, it cost 88¢ for a carton of a dozen large grade A eggs.
There were bags of pasta priced at 25¢ at Aldi.
Similar bags of pasta cost 79¢ over at H-E-B.
A gallon of whole milk at Aldi cost $1.58.
While a gallon of whole milk at H-E-B cost $3.18.
So prices were just a little lower in general at Aldi than they were at H-E-B.
Another popular offering from both companies is their private labels.
H-E-B's brands, like Hill Country Fare, are a big hit with the chain's customers.
H-E-B's take on Tostitos Lime-flavored chips is almost half the cost of its competitor's.
And the company's Cafe Ole coffee line is hard not to love.
Aldi's brands may not be so easily recognizable though yet, which the company seems to be the first to admit.
We spotted some big brand names at Aldi, like Kraft Singles cheese.
But more than 90% of Aldi products are from private brands. The company won 200 awards for its private labels in 2017.
There's Burman's, which carries a ketchup product that looks stunningly similar to the Heinz label.
Lots of the private labeling at Aldi closely resembles some of the bigger box brand names. This Broegel Bock beer could easily be mistaken for Shiner Bock.
We even saw the Shiner beer stocked just shelves below the Aldi beer.
There's Clancy's Stackerz Potato Crisps, which look like a Pringles alternative.
The chain's SimplyNature label offers organic items, like this organic tomato basil pasta sauce.
The Little Journey brand offers baby products.
And there's the liveGfree line of gluten-free foods.
There was a big focus on both gluten-free and organic products at H-E-B and Aldi.
More grocery stores have upped their focus on healthy living to cater to health-conscious consumers, and H-E-B and Aldi haven't skipped a beat on that trend.
There were these vegan, chickenless tenders at Aldi.
H-E-B's organic Central Market line carries whole milk for $2.98.
And a carton of organic fat-free milk by Friendly Farms was priced at $2.69 at Aldi.
Overall, we found a wider selection of items at H-E-B than we did at Aldi.
There was an entire aisle at H-E-B devoted to pet products, for example. Granted, this was an H-E-B Plus, which has more merchandise across the board, but the pet section at regular H-E-B stores is still typically large.
The pet section at Aldi was substantially smaller.
Similarly, there was a multi-aisle beauty department at H-E-B.
There were rows and rows of makeup products ...
... and rows of hair products line the walls.
Most of the beauty items fit in a few shelves at Aldi.
And the brand names were recognizable — there were Suave and Pantene products, among others.
H-E-B's household goods section was also sizable ...
... but we were also impressed by how many household goods were stocked at Aldi. There were aisles devoted to kitchen appliances and the like.
We saw trash cans and mops.
These pillows were priced at $7.99.
And there was even a stationary exercise bike for $50.
So though Aldi's household goods section was more limited, like many of its sections were, it was easy and quick to navigate ...
... which is why Aldi wins if you're shopping on a budget and don't want to spend too much time in the store.
There's a growing consumer need for a quicker in-and-out experience in general, and Aldi's small stores and limited supply meets that need extremely well.
On top of that, Aldi's prices are super low, though H-E-B is still affordable.
H-E-B may have much greater variety, but if you're unfamiliar with a store's layout, it can be overwhelming to navigate.
It'll be interesting to see if Aldi increasingly becomes a favorite amongst Texans.
At the very least, it's catering to Texans with their favorite grocery items.