Do you remember the grocery store scene from Zombieland? When Woody Harrelson just has to have the last box of Twinkies in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? That’s sort of what it’s like getting groceries in 2020. As Harrelson says, time to nut up and shut up – and join us as we count down the 10 Best Grocery Stores In America.
Everyone knows IGA. But what some people might not know is what it stands for – Independent Grocers Alliance. The chain has locations in over 30 countries and yet, they’re a pretty local brand. You know, they like to stay humble. They don’t follow the chain store business model, which means that many of the stores operate in small towns, and are family-owned. IGA was founded in May of 1926 when a group of 100 independent retailers in New York and Connecticut organized themselves into a single marketing system. They managed to access a consistent supply chain and, after a few years, and a few tears, the company was able to make their very own canned food brand. Just a little something to brag about later, no big deal. With that addition to its curriculum, IGA is now the largest independent grocery chain in the world and each store truly prides itself on shopping locally. Hometown store owners know and understand the needs of their communities, and shopping regionally means strengthening the local economy, shorter transportation of produce (which equals a friendlier impact on the environment), and supporting friends, neighbors, and family farmers who work hard to bring the community fresh and quality produce. Basically, at IGA, they know what you need and they give it to you: it’s as simple as that.
9. Sprouts Farmers Market
Now, who doesn’t like farm-fresh produce? Well, if you do, you’ll want to fill up at Sprouts. It offers an abundant variation of fruits and vegetables, as well as anything else on your grocery list, and get this: it’s at an affordable price too. In fact, if you ask, a team member will slice you a sample of just about any fruit or vegetable on the spot, so you can make sure you’re going home with the perfect selection. Sprouts is also pretty hardcore about their natural and organic foods. So much so that ninety percent of their 19,000 healthy products are natural or organic – and they also offer thousands of gluten-free, plant-based, grass-fed, non-GMO, and raw items. If you’ve got an intolerance or prefer plant-based foods, Sprouts doesn’t mess around! They also have a wide selection of vitamins and supplements to choose from, including natural remedies, functional food, and herbal supplements, in addition to their natural and cruelty-free health and beauty products. If you’re unsure what you’re looking for, their team is well-versed in the products their store has to offer, so just ask!
Here’s a grocery store that understands that time is precious and many people don’t have a lot of to spare. So Hannaford launched a program called Guiding Stars that helps consumers identify more nutritional choices, and do it in a more timely manner than usual. It’s perfect for shoppers who don’t have time to read all the labels. It’s quite simple: one star means “GOOD nutritional value”, two equals “BETTER nutritional value”, and three means the “BEST nutritional value”. While this star system has only been in place since 2006, the store got its humble beginnings in the late 1800s. It all started when Arthur Hannaford began selling fresh produce from a one-horse cart along the Portland, Maine waterfront. Later on, his brothers joined him and, together, they formed Hannaford Brothers Company and became one of the leading produce wholesalers in Northern New England by 1920. Today, Hannaford has over 180 supermarkets located in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and eastern upstate New York. They’ve also partnered up with more than 800 local companies and farmers, to ensure the shelves in their stores are stocked with quality products. Hannaford was the first grocery store in the U.S. to receive the Leader in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification – a green building certification program used worldwide – for an eco-friendly store. Hannaford has clearly stayed true to their core morals, putting their customers’ needs first, while also considering their impact on the environment.
Do the names Safeway, United Supermarkets, and Pavillions ring a bell to you? Well, that’s because they all have something in common: they’re all spin-offs of one of the largest food and drug retailers in the U.S. – Albertsons. Operating in 14 states, Albertsons has a strong local and national presence and are widely committed to bettering the lives of Americans. Joe Albertson founded the company with his own savings and some borrowed money and insisted that the key to running a great store was to offer consumers the products they wanted at a fair price, but most importantly, with lots of love and care. To prove this point, in 2017, nearly $300 million in food and financial support was donated to encourage hunger relief, education, cancer research, programs for those with disabilities, and veterans’ outreach. Now, that’s generously impressive. Alberstons was one of the first stores in the country to display magazine racks, include an in-store bakery, and offer freshly made ice cream, which was big reason for its later success. Today, Albertsons is actively committed to conducting business in a lawful and ethical manner. They work diligently to ensure equal opportunities for all, prevent discriminatory behavior in the workplace, and prohibit human-trafficking of any sort at all levels within their supply chains. It might be worth a visit if you’re looking for a socially-engaged company!
“Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.” That’s the motto Barney Kroger ran his business by. Kroger is the second-largest general retailer, just behind Walmart. They own approximately 2,800 stores (including hypermarkets, supermarkets, superstores, and department stores) in 35 states. It’s no wonder they were ranked #20 on the Fortune 500 rankings, with nearly two dozen retail banners under their oversight! The very first Kroger was opened in 1883 and has been thriving since, not only in terms of revenue but also when it comes to customer service. Although the store is still run with its initial core values – a dedication to service, selection, and value – Kroger continues to evolve to match the needs of its shoppers. For example, their innovative process to rescue safe, edible fresh products and efficiently donate them to local food banks means greater access to fresh food for all—a principle they continue to act on. The chain is also committed to a lot of charities, which only adds even more charisma and kindness to their resume.
Where you’re treated like royalty! That’s actually part of Publix’s mission statement; the founder—Mr. George, as he’s referred to—believed in building relationships with each customer in order to enhance their shopping experience. You’ll always be greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable employee at this supermarket. The goal of the store, when it was founded in 1930, was to “operate a better store than the competition, by always providing a clean and well-stocked store with grocery items fairly priced”. That led to numerous innovations, such as air conditioning, automatic doors, and fluorescent lighting. Mr. George prioritized the well-being of his clientele, which led to a loyal customer base and what he believed was the reason for the company’s success. To honor his legacy, Publix continues to respect and follow six of Mr. George’s original philosophies to this day: invest in others, give back, prepare for opportunity, be there, respect the dignity of the individual, and, of course, treat customers like royalty. Most importantly, Publix isn’t all talk. They’ve made it a mission to recycle within their stores and pharmacies, saving cardboard, paper, and plastic from land-fills; reduce food waste, packaging, and greenhouse gas; conserve energy; donate food, and ensure the sustainability of their seafood. This grocer was also ranked first place on Fortune’s inaugural list of Best Big Companies to Work For. Although it’s nice being treated well as a customer, it’s even better knowing that the people serving you are also being treated well by the big guys. They’ve also got an awesome mascot: Plato the Publixaurus! (Wonder if he’s reading up on the great philosophers in his spare time or just chilling with the other dinosaur mascots?)
Going to Costco is a bit like going on a field trip, but for groceries (or anything else you might need – seriously, anything). Come to think of it, maybe it’s more like the gift shop portion of a field trip. The stores are essentially warehouses and sell most items in bulk in order to offer its customers the best deals around. You get what you pay for when it comes to Costco. Although they charge an annual membership fee of $60 (or $120, with some added benefits), they’re rated highly when it comes to cleanliness, meat and produce quality, customer service, store-brand quality, and price of organic items. Despite being comparable to Walmart or Target, the added fee means better service and even better deals if you’re cool with buying a lot of the same product. Costco, like Walmart, is also your one-stop-shop for just about anything you could ever need. Groceries, clothing, furniture, canoe? They’ve got it. How about an eye or ear exam? They offer those, too. Want to pick up something at the pharmacy? Look no further than Costco. They even have a one-hour photo service and a food court, as well as departments for electronics, jewelry, and office supplies. They also have a super lenient return policy (don’t worry if you forgot your receipt!). Additionally, they carry a lot of name brands and even have their own Kirkland signature brand, a much loved and reliable private label. In the near post-apocalyptic world we live in, Costco is the place to go if you need to stock up your secret bunker with non-perishables at super affordable prices. (And the ginormous boxes of Halloween candy don’t hurt either!)
If you live in the Midwest of the United States, you’re probably pretty familiar with this chain of supermarkets. And if you are, then you’ve probably also heard their timeless slogan: “Where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle” The Hy-Vee journey all began in 1930 when Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg set out to open a supply store in Beaconsfield, Iowa, with the goal of providing “good merchandise, appreciative service, and low prices.” And they did just that. They now have over 245 locations and provide full-service supermarkets with bakeries, delicatessens, floral departments, dine-in and carryout food services, and so much more – all delivered with kindness, of course. Hy-Vee is an employee-owned enterprise, meaning store directors, and executive staff members make up a substantial portion of stockholders. This may be why they pride themselves so much on giving back to the community. They also wear their hearts on their sleeves. Through product and financial support, as well as volunteerism, they participate in several charities including Variety the Children’s Charity, The American Red Cross, and even their own initiative, the Hy-Vee Homefront – founded to support organizations that serve our nation’s military. Whether it’s their commitment to sustainability or their locally sourced products, you can feel good about shopping at Hy-Vee, knowing they truly care about their customers.
2. Whole Foods Market
Do you know any other market that not only has organic food but also strict quality standards? If you answered no, worry no more because Whole Foods has got it all! That’s right, Whole Foods Market prohibits more than 100 preservatives, flavors, colors, and other ingredients in the products they sell. So you can rest assured that their meat is ethically sourced and has met rigorous standards regarding animal welfare and the use of antibiotics and hormones. The same goes for seafood: all of it is sustainable, wild-caught, or responsibly farmed. It’s obvious Whole Foods cares about the environment, and we love them for it! They became the first company to remove disposable bags at checkout as early as 2008 and developed a preventative food waste strategy to keep food waste out of landfills (woo-hoo!). In addition, Whole Foods is especially popular with those who order their groceries online. They offer both pickup and delivery options, facilitating grocery shopping for their busier customers. Also, they began offering additional benefits (such as free delivery) for Amazon Prime members after they were acquired by Amazon in 2017 for $13.7 billion. If you’d rather get your groceries in-person, no sweat! You can do so at one of the over 500 stores across North America and the UK.
1. Trader Joe’s
Maybe it’s the ridiculously inexpensive wine or the “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend,” but Trader Joe’s has kind of a cult-like following. And, hey, with the sea-side vibe, affordable prices, and environmentally friendly products, we’re not judging. Despite the store only carrying around 4,000 items – compared to the 50,000 another grocer might carry – Trader Joe’s is consistent with its “neighborhood grocery store” reputation. They buy directly from suppliers and don’t charge them shelf-fees that would normally drive up the price for consumers. They buy early on and in high volume in order to get better prices, which they can then pass on to their clientele. Trader Joe’s also carefully curate their own branded products. Another thing they do is listen to customers’ feedback! If an item isn’t pulling its weight on the shelf, the store swaps it out for something shoppers might like better. Their focus is on value, which is why they don’t have sales, loyalty programs, or membership fees – all things they believe come off as gimmicks. Instead, they find simple solutions to keep costs low and the quality of products high. They must be doing something right because Trader Joe’s now has over 500 stores in 42 states. Know any grocery stores that make podcasts? Now you do. It’s called Inside Trader Joe’s and it features store managers and employees, who take you inside Trader Joe’s! Admittedly, it’s a clever marketing tactic, but it’s also pretty charming. So happy shopping!