The top six slots of Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list offer no surprises in terms of position — all of the companies that ranked first through sixth last year have reclaimed their places.
But while these food retailers continue their battle for ultimate dominance over the U.S. grocery sector, those operators further down on the list are showing more movement as they strive to keep up with consumer trends.
The first inkling of this in the ranking is the swapping of places of Amazon/Whole Foods Market (down two spots to No. 10) and Aldi U.S. (holding steady at No. 9) from last year, showing the solidifying influence of limited-assortment hard discounters, with their largely private-brand offering, in the United States. While Aldi’s aggressive push to open more U.S. stores has helped it maintain its top 10 ranking, arch-rival Lidl — a fellow European operator that has managed to recover its momentum after a rocky U.S. debut — now sits slightly below the Super 50, coming in at No. 56, while last year it failed to chart entirely.
Notable rises were those of Meijer, up five slots to No. 7 from last year’s No. 12; Hy-Vee, up three spots to No. 12; Giant Eagle, up two spaces to No. 14; Demoulas Super Markets, operator of Market Basketstores, up seven spots to No. 18; Save Mart Supermarkets, up four rungs to No. 19; Ingles Markets, up six spots to No. 24; SpartanNash, up two rungs to No. 33; Coborn’s, up six spaces to No. 44; and Ohio independent Marc’s, up one notch to No. 45, along with Rouses, new to the Super 50 at No. 47, from 51st place last year.
All of these positive moves are indicative of regional grocers more than holding their own at a time of increasing consolidation among the top players by displaying an unparalleled ability to meet the needs of the shoppers in their respective market areas, based on years spent catering to those local customers.
This regional mojo didn’t work for every grocer on the list, however: Southeastern Grocers (No. 13), Wegmans (No. 16), Stater Bros. (No. 23) and K-VA-T/Food City (No. 35) were each down two spots, while Grocery Outlet slid four slots to No. 38, Inserra Supermarkets (a ShopRite operator) dropped nine spaces to No. 49, all of these downward trends showing that competitive pressures may be taking their toll on smaller players in certain markets. Further, as Target’s two-slot slip to No. 15 shows, even large national players are feeling the competitive heat.
Still, significant M&A activity was reflected in this year’s Super 50 in a couple of instances. One company in particular saw a dramatic debut on the list: United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), which, thanks to its purchase of wholesaler/grocer Supervalu last October, roared into the rankings at No. 30. Despite industry speculation last July that UNFI would eventually divest itself of Supervalu’s remaining stores, the company hasn’t entirely rid itself of those banners yet, leading to the wholesaler’s place on the list.
In the other major transaction, following its acquisition of Fiesta Mart last year to become the nation’s largest Hispanic-focused grocer, Bodega Latina Corp. leapfrogged an astonishing 14 spots to No. 34 on the 2019 list.
What will next year’s Super 50 reveal? The top six grocers will most likely remain the same, barring any huge deals as yet undone, but lower down the list should present some fascinating developments in a rapidly changing industry.