Which Supermarkets Are America's Favorite? The Votes Are In

Which Supermarkets Are America's Favorite? The Votes Are In
Getty Images

Over the weekend, Kroger (KR) announced plans to hire 20,000 employees -- adding more than 5 percent to its current staffing. Already the nation's largest supermarket chain and its second largest retailer (after Walmart (WMT)), Kroger says it is on a "growth trajectory." Last quarter, the company grew its sales 10 percent year over year.

Maintaining that pace, however, could be difficult when competing with more popular grocery store rivals.

Ranking the Rivals

Harris Poll EquiTrend, now owned by Nielsen (NLSN), recently conducted its first poll of grocery store popularity. Kroger, it turns out, with annual sales of $98.4 billion and operations in 34 states and the District of Columbia, remains one of the more popular chains. It ranks fourth and seventh, respectively, in two of America's four regions for grocery store operations.

As for the other brands, well, Harris says it polled 41,806 U.S. consumers ages 15 and up Jan. 3-Jan. 31, asking their opinions on a wide range of well-known brands, supermarkets among them. Kroger -- which operates stores under dozens of names, including Ralphs and Fry's -- scored best in its home Midwest region, where the top eight supermarket brands were (in order from most popular to least):

  • Hy-Vee

  • Meijer

  • Giant Eagle

  • Kroger

  • Whole Foods Market (WFM)

  • Trader Joe's

  • Walmart

  • Jewel & Jewel-Osco

Elsewhere in the U.S.

The top five performers in America's other regions:

In the Northeast: Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, ShopRite and Hannaford Bros.

In the South: Publix, Walmart, H-E-B, Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter (now owned by Kroger -- so that means Kroger actually placed twice on the list in the South, where its namesake chain came in seventh).

And in the West: Costco (COST), Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Safeway (SWY) and Stater Bros.

What's the Common Denominator?

As you can see, each region has its favorites -- Costco in the West, Publix in the South, Hy-Vee in the Midwest and Wegmans in the Northeast. Kroger may be the nation's biggest pure-play supermarket chain, but no one chain dominates in more than one region.

Two chains, however, do appear very popular across the country. Both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods rank in the top five supermarket chains in three of the four U.S. regions -- missing out narrowly on a clean sweep due only to their sixth-place finishes in just one market each: the Midwest for Trader Joe's, and the South for Whole Foods.

If Kroger hopes to maintain its growth trajectory, it would appear that Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are the rivals to beat.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Costco Wholesale and Whole Foods Market.John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. To read about some of our favorite dividend stocks, check out our free report.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.