Study: Trader Joe’s and Publix tops among grocery chains

Boulder, Colo. -- Trader Joe’s is North America’s favorite grocery store based on customer satisfaction, according to a new study of 6,600 consumers conducted by Market Force Information. Publix Super Markets and Whole Foods Market rounded out the top three. All three received high marks for courteous staff, inviting atmosphere and high-quality produce. Hy-Vee also scored well on those measures.

Publix was tops among shoppers for its cleanliness and courteous staff, and second to Trader Joe’s in atmosphere. Hy-Vee and H-E-B also fared consistently well in key categories.

Market Force’s grocery retailer study was designed to uncover where consumers prefer to shop, as well as why they favor one grocer to another, among other factors. When asked to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery store experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer, consumers scored Trader Joe’s above all others.

Publix, Whole Foods, Wegmans and Aldi also ranked high on the customer delight index, which reveals the intersection between overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending a grocer to friends/family. In other findings:

  • Both Trader Joe’s and Publix performed well in the operational excellence attributes, with Trader Joe’s ranking first for its atmosphere and quick checkout process, and second in the other three categories.
  • When it comes to consumers’ perceptions of high-quality, healthy product selection, natural-food grocer Whole Foods dominated across the board. It was tops among shoppers in every category studied – from high-quality meat and produce to organic options and sustainable practices. It had an especially sizeable lead in the produce category.
  • Market Force also looked at which grocery stores consumers frequent the most, asking where they had spent the majority of their money in the previous 30 days. In the Northeast, Stop & Shop claimed the top spot, garnering 11% of the votes. Giant came in second with 6%, and Wegmans and Market Basket tied for third with 5%.
  • In the South, Kroger ranked first with 16%, followed by Publix with 15% and H-E-B with 5%.
  • Kroger again led the pack in the Midwest also, with 11%. Meijer ranked second with 9% and Hy-Vee took the third spot with 8%.
  • In the West, Safeway led by a wide margin with 12%, Kroger earned 9% and Costco received 7%.
  • Loblaws dominated Canada, with 15%, while Sobeys took second with 11%. Costco and Safeway tied for third at 7%.

Convenient location is the factor that consumers said they like most about their preferred grocery store – in fact, it ranked higher than prices, which was second on the list, while sales & promotions was third. However, these characteristics aren’t necessarily helping grocery chains earn more business. When Market Force drilled deeper to see how the grocers fared in these areas, no one brand dominated the votes across these important characteristics, suggesting that they’re table-stake attributes that consumers have come to expect from their grocers. It was the operations-focused attributes that seem to make a bigger difference.  

“With most consumers satisfied with their grocery-shopping experiences, it makes for a very competitive playing field for grocers looking to distinguish themselves from the masses,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “We start to see the greatest opportunities for differentiation in operations-related attributes such as fast check-outs, gracious staff and atmosphere.”
The survey was conducted in May 2013 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 6,645 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 60% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 19 to over 65.

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