Home » Amazon, H-E-B, Market Basket Are Top U.S. Grocery Retailers

Amazon, H-E-B, Market Basket Are Top U.S. Grocery Retailers


Chicago, Illinois-based dunnhumby has released the fifth annual dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index, a comprehensive, nationwide study that examines the approximately $1 trillion U.S. grocery market.

In a second year dominated by Covid-19, Amazon cemented its leadership position, with H-E-B following in second place and Market Basket leapfrogging three retailers to take the third spot away from Trader Joe’s.

Wegmans held onto the fourth spot for a second year in a row.

In its first year in the RPI, Amazon Fresh vaulted past 55 other retailers to land in the fifth spot. The 10 additional retailers with the highest overall customer preference index scores are: 6) Aldi, 7) Trader Joe’s, 8) Sam’s Club, 9) Costco, 10) Walmart Neighborhood Market, 11) Target, 12) Publix, 13) Walmart, 14) BJs Wholesale and 15) Fareway. 

“The pandemic has massively accelerated changes in how customers buy their groceries, and their behaviors are continuing to evolve,” said Grant Steadman, resident of North America for dunnhumby.  “2021 was the year that grocery retail became truly omni-channel. Retailers who delivered on their customers evolving needs in-store and online performed best. This was mostly the larger players, who used their advantages to consolidate their positions.

“The challenges for most other retailers are significant, but a number of mid-size grocers gained momentum by understanding their customers better and differentiating their offering accordingly. The report aims to provide some direction on why and how retailers can best position themselves to win with customers, in this era of the Great Reinvention,” said Steadman.

The overall RPI rankings are the result of a statistical model that predicts how retailer execution on various customer needs – preference drivers – impact both lasting emotional bonds formed with customers as well as near-term and long-term financial performance. 

Each preference driver score and emotional connection score is measured with data gathered from a customized, online survey of 10,000 U.S. households per year. The seven drivers of customer preference are: price, quality, digital, operations, convenience, discounts, rewards and information and speed.  

Key findings from the study

  • Price and quality are no longer the highest ranked above all other customer preference drivers in securing superior, long-term sales growth and emotional connection with shoppers. Price is now at the top in importance with digital and quality tied for second. 
  • For the fifth consecutive year, Aldi’s laser focus on price secured the discount retailer with the highest ranking on price.
  • Retailers in the first quartile have long-term sales growth that is nine times higher than retailers in the fourth quartile, two times higher than retailers in the third quartile, and one-and-a-half times higher than retailers in the second quartile. They also have superior short-term momentum to those in the other three quartiles, managing solid gains in 2021 surpassing even the height of the 2020 COVID boom, while some other retailers struggled to tread water.
  • Second-quartile grocers have opportunities to also rise rapidly in the rankings by reinventing their relationships with their customers. Current second-quartile retailers Raley’s, Brookshires, Hy-Vee, Food Lion, The Giant Company and former second-quartile retailer BJs Wholesale made the biggest move up the rankings in 2021. 
  • BJs Wholesale, The Giant Company and Food Lion focus on personalization of the customer experience through promotions, rewards and the right assortment, which helped them rise rapidly in the rankings. All three also delivered well-run operations that minimize out-of-stocks and maximize price consistency and logic. And most importantly, these three retailers delivered all of the above attributes without letting base price perception get too far behind Walmart, Costco and Aldi.  
  • Additionally, Brookshires, Raley’s and Hy-Vee also made big moves in the rankings due to their leadership in the omnichannel experience that saves customers’ time. They are among market leaders in both ease and customer service in e-commerce and speediness of the in-store shopping experience.  
  • Digital is ranked superior in driving momentum as Amazon has demonstrated over the last two years by being ranked as the top U.S. grocery retailer. Amazon is the top digital grocer followed by 2) Amazon Fresh, 3) Target, 4) Walmart and 5) Sam’s Club. These retailers clearly set themselves apart from the second through fourth quartiles in their omnichannel transformation journey. Amazon, Target and Walmart achieve clear gaps between each other and everyone else in digital capabilities. The gap in digital pillar score between Walmart (ranked fourth) and Kroger (ranked 15th) is as big as the gap between Kroger and the 59th ranked retailer.
  • Grocery retail is now truly omnichannel, as digital’s share of total grocery sales more than doubled during the pandemic, from 5 percent to 10 percent of sales, yet half of the U.S. grocery shopping population does not buy online and has no plans to. Nearly all online shoppers still buy in brick and mortar, where roughly 90 percent of all customer dollars are currently spent.
  • Retailers who use their own e-commerce platform, versus using Instacart or other third party platforms, have better customer perception of both the e-commerce shopping and delivery phases and perform better financially.

The full RPI report can be downloaded today.

Retailers included in the RPI that are interested in receiving their individual banner profiles can contact dunnhumby at: dunnhumby.com/contact/

The dunnhumby customer data science platform is a unique mix of technology, software and consulting, enabling businesses to increase revenue and profits by delivering exceptional experiences for their customers – in-store, offline and online. Dunnhumby employs more than 2,500 experts in offices throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas working for brands such as Tesco, Coca-Cola, Meijer, Procter & Gamble and Raley’s.

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