This regional grocery chain just beat out Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to be named vegetarians' favorite shopping destination

  • Vons topped a ranking of grocery chains where vegetarians and others seeking meat alternatives are most likely to shop.

  • The West Coast chain triumphed over rivals including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

  • Vons is a 112-year-old grocery chain that has a cult following in Southern California and Nevada.

Vons —a California-based regional grocer — topped a new list of vegetarian-leaning shoppers' favorite grocery chains.

People shopping for meat alternatives such as Beyond Meat and Morningstar are more likely to buy the products at Vons than at any other grocery chain in the United States, according to a new report from location-intelligence company inMarket. The West Coast chain is followed by Publix in the No. 2 spot and Sprouts in No. 3.

inMarket analyzed all major US grocery chains for the report, using anonymous location data to find the chains that someone who buys Beyond Meat or Morningstar are more likely to visit compared to the average American shopper. Other standouts included Whole Foods, which was in the No. 5 spot, and Trader Joe's, which is No. 6.

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Vons' appeal to vegetarians and other people buying meat alternatives may be tied to its West Coast roots.

The grocery chain was founded in 1906 in Los Angeles.

"Downtown Los Angeles was essentially a small town when Charles Von der Ahe opened his 20-foot wide Groceteria on the corner of 7th and Figueroa in 1906 with $1,200 in savings," the company says on its website. "It was a neighborhood store that catered to the needs of local families, where Von der Ahe pioneered 'cash and carry' as an alternative to 'charge and delivery.'"

Vons claims to have invented the "first true supermarket as we know them today" when the company added meat and deli departments in the 1940s.

By the 1970s, Vons was the top grocery retailer in Southern California, with more than 150 stores and 16,000 employees.

Albertsons acquired Vons in a $9 billion deal in 2014, when the grocery company purchased Vons' parent company, Safeway.

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Today, Vons has 273 locations in Southern California and Nevada.

While Vons may not have quite the level of rabid loyalty that a grocery chain like Wegmans inspires, it is beloved by many Southern Californians.

Customers are drawn to the chain for its deli sandwiches, discounts, and — as seen by the report — vegetarian options. Tom Carson argued in Los Angeles magazine that people living in the city additionally have a special attachment to California-based chains, like Vons, that give them a sense of home.

"It’s a question of suddenly incomplete civic identity — a nagging gap in one’s everyday mental equilibrium," Carson writes. "Where we shop for groceries is more important than we often realize in helping us feel connected to a place."

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