With inflation surging as 2021 came to a close, price emerged as the No. 1 driver of customer preference when it comes to where consumers get their groceries, market analyst Dunnhumby reported in its fifth annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI), released Tuesday.
Previously, price and quality together sat well above all other drivers of connection with U.S. grocery shoppers, Dunnhumby noted in its 2021 report. But after a year that saw food-at-home prices rise 6.4% year over year by December—with prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs up nearly 13% from late 2020—"price now sits alone at the top in importance, with digital and quality tied for second," Dunnhumby stated.
That change helped Aldi secure the No. 1 ranking for price for the the fifth year in a row with the 10,000 U.S. households surveyed by Dunnhumby as part of its study. Overall, with all of Dunnhumby's seven preference drivers—price, quality, digital, operations, convenience, discounts, rewards and information, and speed—taken into account, Amazon held on to its No. 1 ranking from 2020, and pricing winner Aldi slid one spot to land at No. 6 on the RPI for 2021.
Newcomer Amazon Fresh grabbed the No. 5 spot on the overall RPI leaderboard, leaping past 55 other retailers in its first year on the index. "Digital is king in driving momentum as Amazon has demonstrated over the last two years by being ranked as the top U.S. grocery retailer," Dunnhumby stated in a news release. On the firm's digital ranking, Amazon stood at No. 1, followed by Amazon Fresh, Target, Walmart and Sam's Club. Trader Joe's, which does not offer online ordering, fell four spots from No. 3 in the 2020 index to No. 7 in 2021.
Other notable moves in the index included Market Basket moving up from No. 6 in 2020 to No. 3 for 2021; Fresh Thyme, ShopRite and Sprouts Farmers Market falling off the top 15; and former second-quartile retailer BJ's Wholesale moving up to No. 14 on the list. Dunnhumby does not release individual rankings for retailers below the top 15.
"Grocery retail is now truly omnichannel, as digital’s share of total grocery sales more than doubled during the pandemic, from 5% to 10% of sales," Dunnhumby noted. "Yet half of the U.S. grocery shopping population does not buy online and has no plans to. Nearly all online shoppers still buy in brick and mortar, where roughly 90% of all customer dollars are currently spent."
In its fifth annual index, Dunnhumby's top 15 grocery retailers overall are:
- Market Basket
- Amazon Fresh
- Trader Joe's
- Sam's Club
- Walmart Neighborhood Market
- BJ's Wholesale