Customer insights firm Market Force Information on Wednesday published a new set of grocery rankings culled from survey responses of more than 10,000 people. They’re based on a composite loyalty index that measures criteria including satisfaction with the food quality, checkout speed, value and customer service.
For the first time in four years, Trader Joe’s is not at the top of Market Force’s list. It fell to the third spot behind Wegmans and Publix, respectively.
In an industry rife with competition, grocery chains must adapt to growing consumer needs and market trends. Particularly this year, as one in five consumers reported that they would not recommend their grocer to a friend or colleague, according to Market Force.
Trader Joe’s declined to comment.
“When you look at the top brands, I do want to be clear that the top three — Wegmans, Publix, Trader Joe’s — they are very, very competitive,” Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer of Market Force, told CNBC. “There is hardly any difference in between the three of them.”
While Wegmans took the top spot with a loyalty rating of 76 percent, Publix and Trader Joe’s are not far behind. Publix scored a 75 percent rating and Trader Joe’s was ranked at 73 percent.
The next closest grocery chain is Hy-Vee Food Stores which garnered a loyalty score of 68 percent.
“Trader Joe’s has not gone backwards on service,” Flink said, explaining that competitors have improved in this regard.
Wegmans, in particular, stands apart from other grocers because of its specialty items and brands and their quick cash-out experience, Flink said.
Representatives for Wegmans were not immediately available for comment.
Across the board, Wegmans, Publix and Trader Joe’s scored highest in cashier courtesy, store cleanliness, item availability, checkout speed and specialty department service when compared to other grocers.
The biggest trend in supermarkets is prepared meals, Flink said. Some two-thirds of respondents noted that they purchase prepared foods at least once a month, with 19 percent making these purchases once a week.
“The grocers are putting time and effort in this idea of ready-to-eat,” Flink said, explaining that consumers are seeking convenience, an alternative for dining out, and food quality.
Companies like Blue Apron, which provide ready-to-cook items for consumers, are major competition for grocery stores, Flink added.
Still, only 4.3 percent of customers considered changing grocers, according to Market Force Information, highlighting just how loyal consumers are to their brands.
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