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Grocers In West Virginia Prove Resilient

West Virginia grocers health well-being private label barriers experiences

Last updated on June 3rd, 2024 at 08:50 am

West Virginia’s grocery landscape continues to shift in 2024, reflecting both national trends and unique state-specific factors. Growth, as reflected in the number of new store openings, has signaled a cautiously optimistic outlook, even as economic and demographic challenges persist.

While national chains including Kroger and Food Lion have dominated West Virginia’s supermarket scene, this past year saw renewed interest from other major players. German discount grocer Lidl, known for its efficient operations and private-label products, announced plans to open its first three stores in the state by the end of 2024.

This expansion follows Lidl’s successful entry into the Mid-Atlantic market, including neighboring Virginia. As one economic analyst explained, Lidl is looking for areas that are underserved and where they can offer a unique value proposition. The company’s management team believes West Virginia demographics are a good fit for their growth plans.

Likewise, Aldi is expanding its presence in the state. The chain opened its latest location in Beckley. Aldi’s well-known reputation for offering high-quality private label products at rock-bottom prices makes it a welcome addition in this part of the state.

[RELATED: Food Retailers ‘Pivotal’ In Virginia’s Economic Resilience]

In fact, demographic experts predict the West Virginia retail landscape will continue to see an influx of smaller format stores in the coming months and years. This forecast is partly based around the state’s aging population in which the median age is 42.

Not only are store footprints expected to shrink, but taking population age into account next gen stores will likely place their emphasis on convenience and prepared meals, note experts. 

Economic challenges remain

In step with the nation-wide impact, West Virginia residents are grappling with the economic challenges affecting the country. Like consumers in other states, West Virginians are curbing all but the most necessary expenses.

This, combined with the fact that the state’s poverty rate remains one of the highest in the nation, means many residents struggle with food insecurity.

The significant low-income population in West Virginia coupled with spiking food prices means many families are having a hard time affording groceries. Several food banks in the state reported a record number of clients are visiting each day.

The creators of the Flashfood are hoping to lend cash strapped shoppers a hand. 

The Flashfood app informs users about discounts being offered on groceries that are near their best-by date and those available in bulk. In April, Giant Eagle announced that through its recent partnership with Flashfood, customers can now use SNAP benefits to pay for food purchased through the app.

[RELATED: Flashfood Celebrates Milestone Of 100 Million Pounds Diverted]

Users purchase these items through the app via EBT payments and pick up the products in the store. A Flashfood spokesperson stated the goal is to help SNAP customers stretch their benefits by giving them better access to nutritious quality foods.

Independents holding strong

During the past 12 months, independent grocers in West Virginia demonstrated they could stay afloat in times of economic uncertainty by innovating and adapting to meet the specific needs of their customers.

Some of the strategies they employed include:

  • Stocking produce grown at neighborhood farms;
  • Offering a wide variety of organic and locally sourced groceries;
  • Hosting cooking classes and community events;
  • Forming buying groups to leverage economies of scale; and
  • Creating a unique and personal shopping experience.

Through their focus on local sourcing, stocking shelves with unique offerings and fostering a sense of community these retailers proved they could remain a vital part of the Mountain State’s grocery landscape.

Fresh finds

West Virginia’s grocery landscape has received a refreshing update with the arrival of several stores, each offering unique shopping experiences for residents.

  • Bulk Food Superstore: The store opened in Buckhannon last summer and features Amish cheeses, meats, sauces, spices, candies, hand-dipped ice cream and specially-crafted sandwiches.
  • Pacific International Market: Expanding Charleston’s culinary horizons, the Pacific International Market caters to a diverse clientele, stocking a wide selection of international ingredients and household goods. From Asian spices and Latin American staples to European cheeses and Middle Eastern sweets, the Market offers a one-stop shop for exploring global flavors at home.

Whether shoppers are seeking organic and natural products, locally sourced groceries and produce, value-driven staples, or international ingredients, West Virginia’s grocery landscape has something fresh to offer in 2024.

About the author

Carol Radice

Senior Content Creator

Carol joins The Shelby Report with more than 25 years writing for B2B magazines that cover the drugstore and supermarket industries. A Rutgers graduate, she earned her B.A. degree in journalism and mass communications more years ago than she cares to admit. She is thrilled to be working with such an accomplished team and to share her knowledge of the industry with Shelby’s readers.

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