Trader Joe’s, the hip specialty food retailer with a cult following, was chosen as North America’s favorite grocery-store chain based on customer satisfaction, according to a survey by Market Force, a customer intelligence firm. The study, conducted in May, asked 6,600 consumers to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery store experience and their likelihood to recommend that store to friends or family.
Consumers scored Trader Joe’s, known for its inexpensive staples and affordable luxuries ($3.99 for a pound of Organic Turkish Apricots!), above the rest on what Market Force called the “Delight Index.”
Publix Super Markets and Whole Foods Market (WFM) also made the top three, with each getting high marks for courteous staff, inviting atmosphere and high-quality produce.
Convenient location was deemed the most important factor for shoppers – ranking higher than prices, which came in second on the list. Trader Joe’s and Publix performed well in these “operational excellence attributes”: Trader Joe’s ranked first for its atmosphere and quick checkout (perhaps the staff’s Hawaiian shirts have something to do with this), while Publix impressed shoppers most for its cleanliness and polite staff. (See chart below.)
Trader Joe’s, a privately held company based in Monrovia, Calif., has achieved a bit of a cult status. It's famous for its eclectic food options, low prices and non-brand-name products (not to mention being the exclusive retailer for the famously cheap Charles Shaw wine, also known as Two-Buck Chuck, which no longer costs two bucks in some places). It operates nearly 400 stores, with each going for a scaled-down neighborhood feel with a bit of quirk: There are no sales, no membership cards and no discounts, and the company says on its site that “we think grocery shopping should be fun, not another chore.” The chain is owned by Germany's Albrecht family, who also own the Aldi Nord supermarket empire.
No one brand dominated the votes across five attributes that consumers said they like most about their preferred grocer, but a few stood out in individual categories. Ralph’s ranked first in the convenient location category, ALDI and WinCo Foods topped the list for low prices, Meijer came out ahead for merchandise selection, and Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) tied for one-stop shopping. Walmart, however, ranked lowest on the customer satisfaction index.
When it comes to consumers’ perceptions of high-quality, healthy product selection, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods outshined across the board, according to Market Force. The natural-food grocer was consumers’ favorite in every category studied, including high-quality meat and produce, natural and organic options, nutritional information and sustainable practices.
Market Force also looked at which chains consumers frequent the most and parsed the results by region. In the Northeast, Stop & Shop got the top spot; Kroger was first in the South and the Midwest, and Safeway led in the West.