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Survey says Trader Joe's is America's favorite grocery chain

May 29, 2014

For the second year in a row, Trader Joe's ranks as the favorite grocery store chain in a survey of North Americans by Market Force Information.

The survey of 6,200 individuals was intended to find which chains were shopped most often by consumers, rated highest in customer satisfaction, and the likelihood they would recommend the retailer to another person.

"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, in a statement. "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."

Trader Joe's, according to Market Force, has created a loyal army of customers because of its "quirky branding, unique private label products such as Speculoos Cookie Butter and Green Tea Mints, and a constantly rotating array of merchandise."

The chain ranks highest when it comes to private label brands, natural/organic choices, nutrition/health information and sustainable policies. It also gets high marks for low prices, courteous service, fast checkouts and inviting atmosphere.

Following Trader Joe's in the ranking of favorite chain stores is Publix (number two for the second consecutive year), Aldi (Trader Joe's limited assortment cousin), Costco, Hy-Vee, H-E-B, Kroger, ShopRite, Meijer, Safeway, Sobeys and Walmart.

While it is not among the most favored chains, Walmart is the most frequently shopped store among survey respondents. The chain is ranked highest for shopping frequency in all the regions covered by Market Force except for the Northeast where ShopRite is the leader. Walmart is ranked third for low prices, way behind Aldi and close to Costco.

The survey also asked consumers to rank their favorite chains by produce and meat. Publix is first in produce with H-E-B a close number two; Trader Joe's ranks third. Costco ranks ahead of Publix and H-E-B when it comes to the highest quality meat.

Discussion Questions:

Which is your favorite grocery store to shop in and why?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which attribute is most important to grocery store success?

Comments:

Not surprising that Trader Joe's achieves the top ranking. While the article highlights its unique value added product assortment, it is its crew that separates it from the competition. These folks have a unique blend of product knowledge (they can tell the story) and a genuine desire to help customers find what they want and speed them through the checkout process.

On the East Coast, Wegmans would be considered by many as the best food retailer in the country. I suspect that Wegmans was not included in this survey. In Consumer Reports, the 2013 survey is the fourth straight survey (the earlier ones were in 2005, 2008, and 2011) in which Wegmans, Trader Joe's, and Publix have been at the top.

Amen to the top three: lots of clues of success for others to emulate.

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Richard J. George, Ph.D., Professor of Food Marketing, Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph's University

Trader Joe's is just making a footprint in South Florida, so I have limited experience shopping there. I have been impressed and enjoyed the times I have been to one of their stores. It has almost become a cult experience. But Publix is still my local grocery chain of choice.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Trader Joe's shoppers are avidly loyal (per the chart above). However, the chain isn't for everyone.

If you love their private label, it's great. If you don't, you won't find your national brands there. The Branded House approach to grocery is well established overseas (Tesco, et al). But here in the States, there is still a robust market for a House of Brands.

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Liz Crawford, VP, Strategy & Insights, Match Drive

This survey is odd - because Trader Joe's isn't really a grocer. In fact, I was told last week by a former employee that they don't even fall under the health guidelines of a grocery (I haven't verified this yet).

So this survey seems a bit apples to oranges. Perhaps what we should take away is that a grocery retailer finds it far harder to satisfy consumers than specialty stores who face lighter demands from consumers.

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

WEGMANS! How are they not on the list? Great fresh and prepared foods. My local one also has beer/wine/alcohol. Always has baggers, and the employees are very friendly.

Market Basket/Demoulas is number 2. Both of these are regional. MB is a local family-owned chain. GREAT job with one bagger per checkout, and the best customer experience. Prices are rock bottom on brand name items like Bell and Evans chicken nuggets that you can buy at Whole Foods, but cost $2 less.

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

No surprises in the survey after Trader Joe's, as most of the rest have large National or Regional footprints. IMHO, the best retailer to shop is Wegmans. Overall, they have the best variety of items, very good meat and produce, outstanding specialty departments (e.g. cheese), etc. They have courteous, well trained associates who help drive sales by their interaction with consumers. Wegmans has managed to keep these attributes as they have expanded and my guess is that if they were in a wider geography they would fare very well.

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J. Peter Deeb, Managing Partner, Deeb MacDonald & Associates, L.L.C.

For grocery purchases, Trader Joe's is at the top of my list. It's easy to shop, prices are good, store crew is friendly and helpful, food quality is high, and speed of checkout is blazingly fast no matter how busy they are (and they always are). Despite their more limited variety, they do meet 80-90% of my grocery needs. I also can recommend it to anyone without any concerns.

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Mohamed Amer, Vice President, Global Consumer Industries, SAP

I like Ralph's stores as I don't have to wait in long lines for checkout.

'readwallstnow'

It's Publix for me. They have a great combination of assortment and superb customer service. Costco obviously lacks in assortment, and their service can be non-existent at times. Trader Joe's is too quirky and has too much of an eclectic product mix to make them anything other than an occasional visit for me.

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

My favorite grocery store is Trader Joe's. I prefer the smaller scale, the layout and merchandising is appealing and easy to shop, and I never have to hunt someone down to help me find an item. The staff is always friendly and checkout is quick. Locations are convenient and parking is plentiful.

There are always sample tastings and I've bought items based on sampling products which have helped bring more variety to my cooking. They also have an impressive selection of wines and beers - many of which are very affordable. Most of my sons' favorite snacks are from Trader Joe's. Things like their packages of pre-cooked brown rice and a variety of sauces like their Soyaki are staples for quick and easy home-cooked meals. The quality and price of their teas can't be beat. I could go on.

I do need to shop elsewhere for household items, but for groceries they're my top pick.

'RetailRetell'

The Northeast is not known for great supermarkets. For years, my wife would attend industry conventions and see all the presentations from around the world. Her remark was, why are there no supermarkets like what I saw in the presentations in our town?

Our market is evolving with Whole Foods, Fairway, Mrs. Green, and Trader Joe's. Before we had ShopRite, A&P and Stop & Shop. Trader Joe's is new and doing exceptional volume. The big difference I see is in the associates. In Trader Joe's, they are helpful, friendly and speak English.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Costco is great for the giant cart trips. I like the entire lively treasure hunt-atmosphere. The meat, wine, and bakery are all well-stocked and reasonable in price. We also have a few very good Fry's (Kroger) out here (AZ) featuring wine bars, sushi stands, etc. All of these places deliver very good shopping experiences.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

My favorite? Fresh & Easy, of course!

Okay, okay, sorry, I just couldn't resist. But back to the survey. I have trouble with the methodology (a complaint I believe I had last year, as well): what do the numbers correspond to? I.e., since it's obvious 76% of the total population didn't give Aldi a thumbs up - probably only 10% at most have even been in one - was it 76% of Aldi shoppers? If that's the case, then I don't think the numbers mean much: you're better off pleasing 32% of 300 million people than 76% of 20 million (or even 82% of however many Aloha shirt groupies the country has).

'notcom'

Wheatsville Co-op in Austin, TX is hands-down my favorite store. The limited assortment focused on natural, organic, and local food is fun and easy to shop because of the store's small footprint. The friendly associates and short lines make the experience even better. The experience is akin to a small Whole Foods focused on local products. I've seen similar co-op formats in other cities and the execution at Wheatsville is a good as it gets.

Trader Joe's is a favorite as well. In addition to the positive attributes like friendliness and strong private label products, I think that the absence of price cuts is a significant contributor to the enjoyable shopping experience. The in-store displays always offer relevant and desirable products, and the attractive signage focuses on the benefits of the products. It is no wonder that this differentiated experience has developed the most loyal shoppers.

Jacob Suher, PhD Student, UT-Austin

I love Trader Joe's, but it's not the be all and end all. As my twenty-something kids are now finding out, it takes a village to feed a family. For a family wedding weekend Memorial Day, I bopped to Costco, Berkeley Bowl, TJs and Andronicos on Friday - just to pick up a few last minute items!

Elly Valas, President, Valas Consulting Group, LLC

I like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods myself. Both have good customer service and selection of products. Trade Joe's assortment maybe smaller, but it is focused very nicely for the downtown San Francisco market where I shop. Whole Foods in San Francisco caters to a broader range of organic and read-to-eat/serve products that fits well into downtown living and the "yoga and yogurt" crowd as I like to call them. :-)

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Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

First, the poll. Might be nice to have the option of all of the above, or none of the above, instead of my default to Not sure/No opinion. I would say Trader Joe's is my favorite, for all the reasons stated in the poll and in the article. However, I believe it's disingenuous when you check out and the checkout person has been trained to say: "I see you bought - peppermint brownies...(substitute here any product you happen to buy) -- they're my favorite."

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Naomi K. Shapiro, Strategic Market Communications, Upstream Commerce

Trader Joe's is my favorite grocery store...but I shop at Kroger almost every day.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

This is easy...Trader Joe's! It's been six years since we left the US and are soon returning to Indianapolis where there are 2 TJs. We can't wait!

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Jerry Gelsomino, Principal, FutureBest

I'm with notcom in questioning the methodology, or at least the phrasing of the findings, as I also did with last year's survey.

The RetailWire question asks "Which is your favorite grocery store to shop in and why?" but that's not what Market Force is asking. It "asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer."

Which means Trader Joe's is not the most popular store - it's just the most popular store among people who already shop there. So declaring it the "most popular" based on that, would be like surveying people about their favorite fruits, and discovering that people who like oranges think they're all right, but people who like prunes really really love them - and then declaring prunes to be "America's favorite fruit."

Bill Clarke, Publisher, CouponsInTheNews.com

My favorite is PUBLIX! I currently work in the Midwest and locally love Kroger. I have been to Trader Joe's often and it is great. Aldi is great also.

I have had the pleasure of traveling and experiencing most chains; there are some real differences and you have to evaluate a chain on its own merits. There are some great grocers out there -- Mariano's, Strack and VanTil, and Wegmans come to mind, aside from those mentioned above.

But over all, for an incredible experience, my vote HAS to go to PUBLIX!

William Passodelis, associate, ML Co.

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