The 14 Cheapest and Best Grocery Stores

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Amazon has replaced H-E-B as the nation’s best overall grocery store for its combination of speed, quality and prices, according to a new report based on customer perceptions from data firm Dunnhumby.

The fourth annual grocery edition of the Dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index (RPI) provides some in-depth insights into what customers value in a food retailer. And it’s clear that shoppers’ criteria have changed.

Shoppers Pick Favorite Stores for Prices, Quality and Overall Experience

The report covers the following metrics:

  • Prices
  • Quality
  • Digital
  • Operations
  • Convenience
  • Speed
  • Discounts & Rewards

As part of its overall retailer preference Index, this year’s report also includes a COVID metric to gauge grocer market share gains and momentum amid the pandemic.

The results rank the nation’s top grocery retailers based on how they performed in 2020 compared to 2019.

Dunnhumby says it developed its report from an online survey of 10,000 U.S. households. It features rankings for dozens of your favorite grocers:

Acme Markets, Albertsons, Aldi, Amazon, Big Y Foods, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Brookshire Grocery, Costco Wholesale, Family Fare, Fareway Stores, Food City, Food Lion, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fresh Thyme, Fry’s Food Stores, Giant Food Stores, Giant Eagle, Hannaford, Harris Teeter, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Ingles Markets, Jewel-Osco, King Soopers, Kroger, Lidl, Lowes Foods, Market Basket, Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Raley’s Supermarkets, Ralphs, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Save Mart Supermarkets, Schnucks, Shaw’s, ShopRite Supermarkets, Smart & Final, Smith’s Food, Sprouts Farmers Market, Stater Bros. Markets, Stop & Shop, Target, Fresh Market, Tops Friendly Markets, Trader Joe’s, Vons, Walmart, Wegmans, Weis Markets, WinCo Foods, and Winn-Dixie Stores.

Let’s look at the report’s assessment for overall top grocers, then price and the other metrics.

Overall Winners

Considering all the categories as a whole, here are the best overall grocery stores according to the Dunnhumby report:

  1. Amazon
  2. H-E-B
  3. Trader Joe’s
  4. Wegmans Food Markets
  5. Aldi
  6. Market Basket
  7. Sam’s Club
  8. Costco
  9. Publix
  10. Target
  11. Fresh Thyme
  12. ShopRite
  13. Sprouts
  14. Walmart

Prices

While price used to be the most important metric customers considered, speed and convenience have gained value over the past year as shoppers have tried to get in and out of grocery stores as quickly as possible — or have moved to shopping for food online.

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Price is still a factor, though. Here’s are the report’s rankings for grocery retailers according to price:

  1. Aldi
  2. Market Basket
  3. WinCo Foods
  4. Lidl
  5. Food 4 Less
  6. Costco
  7. Walmart
  8. Trader Joe’s
  9. Sam’s Club
  10. H-E-B
  11. Amazon
  12. BJ’s
  13. Fareway
  14. ShopRite

Meanwhile, here are the other categories that grocers ranked for:

Quality

The importance of quality — which has to do with things like the store experience and product assortment — fell this year to the second-least important attribute for a grocery store.

“Customer needs shifted from finding a preferred, branded paper towels to simply finding any paper towels. Thus, many shoppers went from satisfying their higher-order emotional needs to simply finding product on the shelf that would meet their more basic functional needs.” the report says.

For quality, Wegmans came in tops. Rounding out the top five were Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme, Fresh Market and Publix.

Digital

The report included stores that excelled in digital attributes, which increased in importance to shoppers. Of note, though, is that many customers over the past year “likely shopped online out of necessity, rather than preference,” the study says.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the world’s top online retailer Amazon came in first place. Rounding out the top five were Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Lowes Foods.

Operations

The report also ranked stores on their operations, or how they convey their prices to customers and whether their shelves are stocked with what people want.

Costco came in at #1 for operations. Market Basket, BJ’s and WinCo Foods and Food 4 Less rounded out the top five.

Convenience

As for convenience, things like proximity, product variety and “one-stop shopability” were all considered.

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The top five stores that the shoppers said offer the most convenience are Walmart, Market Basket, Publix, Fry’s and Jewel-Osco.

Speed

During the pandemic, speed translates into safety for many shoppers, the study noted. Thus, the stores that allowed customers to get in and out quickly gained greater value.

Fareway was #1, followed by Amazon, Aldi, Fresh Thyme and Publix.

Discounts & Rewards

The report measured which stores were tops when it comes to widely accessible discounts, rewards and information.

The best for discounts were: Fry’s, Kroger, Price Chopper, King Soopers and Winn-Dixie.

COVID Momentum

The report also ranked grocers they felt had exhibited a lot of momentum during the pandemic as well as for the long-term future.

In order, the top five are Amazon, Target, Fry’s, BJ’s and Kroger.

Final Thought

At least right now, cost is no longer the leading consideration when people are buying groceries.

The report concludes that delivering a balance of price and quality is now the most important factor that leads customers to rate a food retailer highly.

Team Clark wants you to save money when you shop, so here are some ways to trim your grocery bill.

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