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Consumer Reports is out with its annual appraisal of the nation’s favorite supermarket chains, reporting that “five regional grocers shared top marks for customer satisfaction. They are Texas-based Central Market; mid-Atlantic brand Wegmans; Heinen’s, located in Ohio and Chicagoland; Southern California-based Gelson’s Markets; and Market Basket (Northeast) … Trader Joe’s is the only national chain to earn our top overall satisfaction score.”

According to the report, “Our members told us their top reason for shopping at a grocer was low prices. Among members who quit shopping at a particular store because they were dissatisfied, one of the most common reasons stated was that it was too expensive.

“Trader Joe’s and Market Basket (Northeast), both among the top six highest-rated markets, gleaned top marks on competitive pricing … Despite being rated favorably in nearly every category—and getting a top mark for meats and poultry quality—Whole Foods earned a mediocre score for overall satisfaction. The reason? Perceived high prices.”

At the same time, the report says, “our members told us they prized low prices, they placed several chains with higher-than-average prices at the top of our ratings.

“Gelson’s Markets, a 27-store California-based chain, for instance, was given our lowest mark for overall price competitiveness, and had a disappointing score for prices on organic options. Yet it was among the top-rated markets.”

The report goes on: “After price, produce quality and the variety of goods a store carried were among the most important reasons members chose to shop where they do. Central Market and Wegmans were the only stores in the ratings to excel not only in produce quality, but also in produce variety, selection of healthy options, selection of locally produced products, and variety of international products or multicultural foods.”

In a related study, Consumer Reports also looked at grocery delivery services:

“Shipt, the online grocery delivery service owned by retailing giant Target, sits at the top of Consumer Reports' new ratings of online grocery-delivery services. Amazon Prime Now—the same-day service that delivers groceries from Whole Foods and other markets in dozens of cities—is another favorite.

“Both services were rated highly overall by the Consumer Reports members we surveyed. Members gave Shipt top marks for hours of delivery, timeliness, communications about delivery status, packaging, and text-based customer service. Amazon Prime Now got commendable marks for delivery hours, timeliness, and communication about delivery status.

“Both services got better-than-average scores for the quality and freshness of their delivered groceries.”

The report goes on: “Consumer Reports members generally were pleased with the quality of the food from the delivery services they used. Shipt, Amazon Prime Now, and Instacart received favorable marks for quality and freshness of food. Peapod, FreshDirect, and Amazon Fresh received mediocre scores.

“In our ratings, a major differentiator was price. Results from our members earned FreshDirect, Instacart, and AmazonFresh our second-to-lowest score—an orange chevron—for prices of delivered groceries. In comparison, Shipt, Amazon Prime Now, and Peapod were middling in this category.

“Along with Instacart, AmazonFresh was among the worst for cost of the subscription service and delivery.”
KC's View:
I always think that these kinds of surveys have to be taken with a grain of salt … they are a snapshot, not a complete picture. It is incredibly instructive that both Market Basket and Gelson’s can get strong ratings - they are in very different markets, with very different approaches, targeting very different customers. And, apparently, succeeding.

The key word is “different.”