By Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) -Aldi's U.S. arm said on Wednesday that same-store sales in the country rose in the double digits over the last 12 months as rampant inflation pushed consumers to find cheaper deals on groceries.

The German-owned discount supermarket chain's U.S. stores sales growth over the past year was driven by 1 million new customers, Scott Patton, Aldi's vice president of National Buying, told a media event. Aldi has seen an increase in middle- and high-income shoppers as well, said Patton, referring to households making $50k-100k per year as middle income.

"Inflation is hitting everyone so when we can be a solution for the grocery portion of that, that's important," he said.

Discount stores such as Aldi and Dollar General Corp tend to perform well during economic turmoils as cash-strapped consumers seek cheaper alternatives.

Dollar General lifted its annual comparable sales forecast last month, encouraged by consumers flocking to its stores for everything from groceries to household supplies.

Higher gas prices have also pushed more Americans to shop at Aldi, usually located in more metropolitan areas, rather than drive to a Walmart Supercenter which is usually outside of major urban regions.

Aldi attributed some of its success to offering more fresh produce over the last two years, which now makes up for two-thirds of what consumers put into their carts.

By cutting out excess labor such as a butchers in the meat section or produce stackers, refreshing produce seasonally and offering only 120 types of products on average at its U.S. stores, Aldi has the ability to price fruits and vegetable at a 20-40% discount to competitors, Patton said.

Avocados, for example, cost 49 cents each at an Aldi store, compared to 88 cents on and 99 cents on, a Reuters review of prices showed.

Aldi also said on Wednesday it started testing a new "shoppable" website with a small group earlier this week, with a plan to launch nationally soon.

The U.S. website, which would allow people to see prices, compare products as well as available delivery and curbside pickup options, would be the first time the Aldi Group would offer a website from which you can shop, Patton said.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in New York and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Josie Kao)

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