U.S. consumers say their favorite grocery chain is Wegmans Food Markets, which edged out Publix Super Markets in an online survey of 12,892 shoppers by Market Force Information.
Wegmans finished No. 1 for the third straight year in the poll, after having toppled long-running favorite Trader Joe’s in 2016, said Louisville, Colo.-based Market Force, which describes itself as a customer experience management company. Wegmans and Publix had tied for the top spot in 2017. Rounding out the top five this year were Trader Joe’s, Aldi and H-E-B.
“Wegmans, founded in 1916, is known for its fresh produce, reasonable prices and massive stores,” Market Force said in a statement. “The New York-based chain is expanding steadily and, with a focus on employee training to ensure a great customer experience, it’s created a legion of super-fans eager for a new location to open near their home.”
Grocery retailers were ranked using Market Force’s Composite Loyalty Index, which assigns a score based on how customers rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and likelihood to refer that chain to others. The results were close between the top three finishers. Wegmans led with an index score of 77%, just ahead of Publix at 76% and Trader Joe’s at 75%.
Aldi rose one spot this year to come in fourth at 70%, while H-E-B repeated its previous year’s score of 69% in taking the fifth slot. Safeway and Walmart ranked at the bottom with respective scores of 42% and 34%.
Other chains in the top 20 of the Composite Loyalty Index were Fry’s (66%), WinCo Foods (65%), Costco (65%), Harris Teeter (64%), Sam’s Club (60%), Whole Foods Market (60%), Hy-Vee (58%), Kroger (58%), Food Lion (55%), ShopRite (55%), Meijer (53%), Winn-Dixie (51%), Target (49%), Stop & Shop (46%) and Giant Food Stores (45%).
Market Force, which survey shoppers ages 18 to 65, identified key experience attributes that matter most to consumers, including store cleanliness, item availability, convenient location, good sales and promotions and value for the money.
Publix and Wegmans tied in the areas of store cleanliness and item availability. Wegmans ranked No. 1 for its specialty department service, while Publix led the field in ease of finding items, according to the survey. Consumers named Trader Joe’s as having the fastest checkouts and the most courteous cashiers — leading second-place Publix in the latter attribute by almost 10 percentage points.
In terms of why shoppers favor a particular grocer, 62% of those polled said convenient location, followed by good sales and promotions (60%) and value for the money (55%).
Market Force said Food Lion customers most often cited the chain’s convenience, while ShopRite shoppers said the grocer excels in sales and promotions. Aldi customers praised the chain for delivering good value for money, with Costco at No. 2 and WinCo Foods at No. 3 in that regard.
A rising number of consumers are using online grocery delivery, especially click-and-collect services, the survey revealed. Shoppers named Walmart, Kroger, H-E-B and Harris Teeter as the grocery retailers they most used in the past 90 days for click-and-collect purchases.
Of all respondents, 15% said they’ve used click-and-collect, up from 9% in 2017 and 4% in 2016. This year, 34% described themselves as frequent users of this service, making click-and-collect grocery transactions at least monthly.
Also climbing in popularity is online grocery home delivery. Twenty-two percent of shoppers polled said they’ve used the service, compared with 18% in 2017. Most consumers (35%) reported they get home delivery via online grocery players such as Peapod and Shipt, compared with 34% through general online retailers such as Amazon and Jet, and 24% via online orders from brick-and-mortar grocery chains. But about 20% of consumers said they’re less than satisfied with the experience, Market Force noted.
Among food trends, the Market Force study showed that customers’ preference for locally sourced and organic items remains strong. Fifty-eight percent of shoppers deem locally sourced meat, produce and dairy products as important and, when given a choice, 49% said they prefer organic products (down from 50% in 2017).
Produce is the top organic item; 93% of respondents said they’ve bought organic produce in the past 30 days. Next in popularity were organic meat, dairy and packaged dry groceries, while baby care and paper products were the least-purchased organic items.
This year, more consumers surveyed by Market Force said they’ve tried meal kits, with 15% using a meal kit delivery service at least once versus 11% in 2017. Yet 49% indicated they were less than satisfied with the experience. The top reason for using a meal delivery service was to add variety to meal planning, cited by 50% of respondents. Other reasons were to have a fun experience, save time and sample new ingredients.
The 2018 study saw Hello Fresh surpass Blue Apron as the most popular meal kit service. Thirty-nine percent of shoppers said they’ve tried Hello Fresh, compared with 35% for No. 2 Blue Apron and 9% for No. 3 Home Chef. Acquired by The Kroger Co. last month, Home Chef had the highest satisfaction rating among consumers polled and the lowest customer churn, along with Plated, which is owned by Albertsons Cos.
Still, Market Force noted that 83% of those who have tried a meal delivery service have stopped using it, up from 76% last year. The primary reason was poor value, but consumers also cited portion size and cost.
“Many supermarket brands are embracing meal kits, and they appear to be making adjustments that address consumers’ misgivings about cost and value. For instance, Costco is now offering Blue Apron kits in some stores for 30% less than the subscription cost,” explained Brad Christian, chief customer officer at Market Force. “While the supermarket industry has offered ready-to-go meals for some time, meal kits in stores is a fairly new phenomenon that we suspect will take off because it gives consumers the convenience they want without locking them into a subscription.”
And on the promotional side, Market Force’s research found that the rising use of grocery mobile apps isn’t curtailing shoppers’ affinity for circulars. Of consumers surveyed, 44% said they use a grocery app – up from 39% last year — and the chief use of apps “overwhelmingly” is to get coupons, Market Force said.
Eighty-four percent of respondents reported they continue to peruse print circulars at least weekly, with 14% using them three times a week or more. Most shoppers (80%) said they plan their shopping trips according to deals presented in circulars. Sixty percent clip coupons and 59% use them to compare prices between retailers.