Trader Joe’s continues to deliver a grocery experience that leaves shoppers wanting more, according to a study by Market Force Information of more than 6,200 consumers. The study found that Trader Joe’s is North America’s favorite grocery retailer based on satisfaction. Publix and Aldi were ranked second and third. All three were lauded for their courteous and fast service as well as the quality of their private-label brands.
The study was designed to uncover the grocers that shoppers frequent most often, which chains excel in customer satisfaction, and why they prefer one to another. For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score, which reveals the intersection between overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending a store to others.
Trader Joe’s a two-time favorite
Trader Joe’s took the No. 1 spot out of the 12 grocery chains studied, with a score of 82 percent, and was trailed by Publix with 80 percent. Aldi, Costco and Hy-Vee rounded out the top five. This is the second year in a row that Trader Joe’s ranked first and Publix ranked second. Whole Foods and Wegmans, which made it into the top five in the 2013 study, scored well, but failed to garner enough votes to earn a top spot on this year’s list, while brands like Safeway moved up considerably.
With its quirky branding, unique private-label products like Speculoos Cookie Butter and Green Tea Mints, and a constantly rotating array of merchandise, Trader Joe’s has amassed a loyal following of shoppers looking for an unconventional grocery shopping experience with a neighborhood feel. The national chain is regularly recognized for delivering a level of customer service and satisfaction that exceeds expectations, according to Market Force.
Public rates Publix highest for atmosphere, speedy checkouts
Market Force discovered what sets the leading grocery brands apart from the pack, as well as potential areas for industry differentiation, by looking at why shoppers spend the majority of their grocery dollars at one store over another. Publix and Trader Joe’s scored highest in many of the operational attributes that matter most to consumers, including courteous service, fast checkouts and inviting atmosphere. Aldi was the clear leader in low prices, ShopRite received the highest marks for its sales and promotions and Walmart was lauded for offering a one-stop shopping experience. Hy-Vee and H-E-B also ranked in the top five of many of the categories.
Costco’s meat is cut above with shoppers
Market Force also looked at consumer preferences across categories such as produce, meat and private-label products. Costco, the nation’s largest retail seller of Prime and Choice beef, trumped Publix and H-E-B for highest quality meat. Publix won on offering the highest quality produce, with H-E-B a close second. Trader Joe’s dominated in categories related to healthy food and nutrition. It scored an 83 percent for its natural and organic food choice, far ahead of Publix with 31 percent. It also led by a wide margin in providing nutrition and health information and instituting sustainable policies. The honors for best private-label brand products also went to Trader Joe’s, followed by Aldi and H-E-B.
Chains most frequented by region
On a national basis, shoppers reported spending more money grocery shopping at Walmart than any other chain. However, because Walmart has thousands of locations in North America and some of the other brands have less than 100, Market Force drilled down to identify the four most popular grocers in each region. Walmart led in all regions, except for the Northeast where ShopRite was a strong favorite. Publix was the second favorite in the South, Kroger in the Midwest, Safeway in the West and Sobeys in Canada.
• Nationally—Walmart, Kroger, Publix, Aldi
• Northeast—ShopRite, Walmart, Stop & Shop, Giant
• South—Walmart, Publix, Kroger, H-E-B
• Midwest—Walmart, Kroger, Hy-Vee, Aldi
• West—Walmart, Safeway, Costco, WinCo Foods
• Canada—Walmart, Sobeys, Loblaws, No Frills
Satisfaction not guaranteed
Consumers also were asked to rate their customer experience during their most recent grocery shopping trip and, while 50 percent said they were delighted, the remainder rated their experience either just OK or bad. This could point to a missed opportunity for grocery brands that are failing to capitalize on their operational expenditures or to foster customer loyalty.
“Competition is fierce and growing in the grocery sector with regional players going national and national players moving toward neighborhood market concepts. It’s only getting more difficult to attract and keep customers, and being adequate is no longer good enough,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “We’ve found that delighted customers are three times more likely to recommend a grocery store than those who had just an OK experience. This tells us that chains that truly wow their customers on their first visit can establish brand advocates who go on to recommend the grocer to friends and family.”
Of those who reported dissatisfaction, the most common reasons given were long checkout times (cited by 46 percent), inability to find the products they want (32 percent), the produce quality was lacking (16 percent), poor service by floor associates (15 percent) and poor service by cashier (15 percent).
What’s trending—buying local, non-GMO, prepared meals
Local food sourcing is of increased interest and importance to shoppers, based on Market Force’s study findings. More than half (59 percent) said that local sourcing of meat, produce and dairy products is important or very important, and 65 percent are more likely to buy these products if they’re locally sourced. What’s more, one-third of respondents reported that they buy at least a quarter of their produce from farmer’s markets in their area.
Organic foods continue to gain in traction, and the most prevalent organic products purchased are produce, meat, dairy, snacks and cereal. The main reasons given for purchasing organic were better nutritional value, better quality and absence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Although GMOs have been prominent in the news, half of those surveyed have little to no familiarity with this breed of food—38 percent indicated they’re unfamiliar with them, compared with 13 percent who said they’re very familiar with them. Of those who indicated they’re very familiar with GMOs, 69 percent expressed a concern about their use.
Market Force also found that consumers are increasingly buying prepared meals for all occasions—34 percent said they often buy them for themselves, 29 percent said they purchase them for a group and 37 percent said both. Convenience was by far the driving factor behind prepared-meal purchases, followed by those who said they buy them as an alternative to dining out, and for value/food quality.
A trend that doesn’t seem to be gaining much steam is online ordering. Eighty-eight percent said they have never ordered groceries online (just 12 percent have), and 67 percent indicated that they have no interest in ordering them via the internet in the future.