5 mins read

Grocery Stores With the Most Loyal Customers (Costco Is Only No. 7)

A father and daughter shop together in the produce section.
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Is there one grocery store you always turn to? You certainly aren’t alone. Plenty of Americans have a favorite that they stick by.

Market Force, an analytics and solutions group, conducted a study with more than 5,000 participants. Survey respondents came from a variety of age groups and economic classes and answered questions on which grocery stores they’re most loyal to.

Based on Market Force’s results, these are the chains with the most dedicated customers.

1. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's stores
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.82

The namesake for Trader Joe’s — Joe Coulombe — was running a struggling convenience store when he decided to switch gears and open a grocery store chain. Coulombe said he wanted to create a store for those who see food as an adventure and who long for something more than name-brand goods.

In 1967, he opened up shop in Pasadena, California, and in 1979, he sold the chain to the family of Theo Albrecht, then-owner of the Aldi grocery chain in Europe. However, Coulombe stayed on as chief executive of Trader Joe’s until 1988.

2. Wegmans

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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.80

Wegmans began with two brothers: John and Walter Wegman. They became fresh produce pushcart paddlers in 1916 before they decided to expand. In 1930, they opened a 20,000 square foot store in Rochester, New York. This was massive for the times and landed them in headlines across the country.

They only continued to expand from there, and the family still leads the company.

3. Publix

Publix storefront
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.73

Publix’s founder George W. Jenkins grew up in the business as he worked in his father’s Georgia grocery store. Although he eventually left his father’s store, he continued working in grocery and even acted as a manager through his 20s. In 1930, he created a store of his own.

That year he opened the first Publix in Winter Haven, Florida, and opened the second location five years later. More than 1,300 locations exist today.

4. Aldi

Aldi store
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.71

The Albrecht Family opened the world’s first discount grocery store in Germany before opening the first Aldi store in Iowa in 1976. The chain has since expanded, with locations in 36 states.

5. Sam’s Club

Sam's Club
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.71

Sam’s Club was a division of Walmart that didn’t come around until 1983, about 20 years after Walmart’s founding. The first location was in Midwest City, Oklahoma, but just a few years later there were already 49 different clubs. Sam’s Club has hundreds of locations in the United States today.

6. HEB

HEB stores in Texas.
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.71

HEB began in Texas as a one-room business back in 1905. It was started by Florence Thornton Butt. The business was first named Mrs. CC Butt’s Staple and Fancy Grocery and located on the first floor of her family’s home.

Her son, Howard Edward Butt, later inherited the store. His management tactics and low prices got them through the Great Depression. The first store under the name HEB came in 1942.

7. Costco

Costco Wholesale sign at dusk in Redmond, Washington
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.68

The first Costco opened in 1976 — but you probably won’t guess how it looked.

It began as the Price Club and operated in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego. Costco initially only served small businesses in the area, but it eventually opened its doors to individual customers, which helped push the store’s growth.

8. Hannaford

The outside of a Hannaford grocery store.
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.65

This chain has been around for well over 100 years. The Hannaford brothers started off in 1883 selling fresh produce in Portland, Maine. Arthur, Howard and Edward Hannaford eventually incorporated Hannaford Bros. in 1902.

9. Sprouts Farmers Market

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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.63

Sprouts is younger than some of its competitors. Henry Boney opened a fruit stand in California in 1943 that grew into several open-air farmers markets. His sons formed a community grocery store in 1969.

Members of this family went on to form Sprouts Farmers Market, which first opened its doors in 2002.

10. Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market
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Customer Loyalty Index for this chain: 4.60

Whole Foods got its start in 1980 in Austin, Texas, with 19 staff members.

John Mackey was a 25-year-old college dropout. He and 21-year-old friend Renee Lawson borrowed money from friends and family in 1978 to open a natural foods store. They had to live at the store at one point, forced to shower using the dishwasher.

They went on to merge with Clarksville Natural Grocery in 1980, marking the opening of the first Whole Foods.

Other grocery stores with loyal customers

Woman shopping at the grocery store
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These supermarkets didn’t make it to the top 10 but still have a higher Customer Loyalty Index score than some of their competitors.

  • Market Basket: 4.57
  • Hy-Vee: 4.55
  • Harris Teeter: 4.55
  • Lidl: 4.54
  • BJ’s: 4.53
  • WinCo Foods: 4.53
  • Food 4 Less: 4.53
  • Meijer: 4.53
  • Giant Eagle: 4.50
  • Target: 4.50

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