Consumers Rate Top Retailers: In What Do They Trust?

WGB/BrandSpark study reveals top attributes of retailers and a ranking of which are doing it best

While the spate of developments over the past 20 months have given rise to a new retail food world, the majority of consumers remain heavily invested in their food and household purchases—as well as the retailers for which they most frequently turn to fulfill their needs. And though the grocery sector remains relatively unaffected—for now—by the uptick of online competition, the onus is squarely upon retailers to discern and deliver the goods and services deemed most important by a diverse and increasingly demanding consumer.

To that end, part two of Winsight Grocery Business’ and BrandSpark International’s Most Trusted Food Retailers exclusive research dissects the foremost factors that are most profoundly informing consumer perceptions of preferred grocers, alongside a comparative ranking of the factors found to be most influential for imparting loyalty and a satisfying shopping experience.

An assessment of the top 21 most important attributes offered by food retailers depicts very few surprises. The usual suspects—price, value, fresh produce, fresh meat and location—are all viewed as significant among 70% of the national panel of 2,488. Conversely, the attributes that were plotted as less important must-haves—such as specialty foods, digital media, pharmacy and curbside pick-up—belie the priority many retailers are ascribing to those very same areas.

While fresh produce and meat flip-flop as the first and second most influential departments in the clear majority of industry studies, the former held sway as the most important in-store attraction for six out of every 10 visits to a food store in the first-ever national survey identifying America’s Most Trusted Food Retailers. The same percentage of consumers (six in 10) professed a willingness to pay more for top-quality produce, while eight in 10 agreed, “It is a must that a grocery retailer have a good selection of fresh produce year-round.”

The 15 retailers which scored highest for their “core fresh” produce and meat quality credentials are Wegmans, Whole Foods Market, Publix, H-E-B, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Markets, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, Meijer and Trader Joe’s.

In What Do They Trust data is the second of a three-part series of exclusive BrandSpark research conducted for WGB. Part one exploring the Most Trusted U.S. Food Retailers appeared in WGB’s November 2017 issue. Up next in part three: grocery e-commerce and the various attributes shoppers place when shopping online for food/groceries.

Grocery Store Attribute Importance

When asked to rate the importance of various features, shoppers are most likely to cite price as very important, while fresh produce and meat are the next two top tablestakes’ attributes.


Fresh Satisfaction Leaders

Leading brick-and-mortar retailers’ fresh departments continue to define the underpinnings of their overall brand and destination offerings for shoppers, who equate the top-performing retailers below with excellence in seafood, deli and prepared foods.


Satisfaction Leaders—Core Fresh

While the fresh departments remain ground zero for retailers to leverage their quality, differentiation and specialization, those earning the highest marks for their overall fresh finesse include:


Private Label Satisfaction Leaders

These retailers have earned strong reputations for private label products, which continue to help them solidify their brand and image, particularly with signature products around the perimeter, including fresh produce, in-store baked goods, deli and fresh meat.

  • Fewer than 1 in 10 shoppers say they never buy private label.
  • 6 in 10 shoppers believe that private label products are often from the same manufacturers as the brand names.
  • 7 in 10 shoppers “usually” buy at least a few private label products on their shopping trips.
  • Shoppers continue to see private labels as a way to get more value for money: 1 in 2 say they are “just as good” as brand names.


Convenience and Atmosphere Satisfaction Leaders

While shoppers remain fixated on low prices and proximity/location as the most desired traits of a preferred retailer, the overall shopping environment and ease of shopping continue to factor as foremost reasons for the selection of a primary store, where Publix, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, H-E-B, Kroger and Wegmans rate high.


Price and Value Satisfaction Leaders

With grocery purchases representing 12.6% of an average household income, it’s no surprise that price and value—as the most practical and emotional attributes for food shoppers—remain indelible factors when sizing up preferred food stores.


Household and Personal Care Satisfaction Leaders

Mass merchants and supermarkets remain the primary outlets for these products; one in three shoppers cite “getting everything I need in one stop” as a top reason for their preferred store.

The preferred store format for household and personal care products:

  • 7 in 10 regularly buy at mass merchants
  • 1 in 2 regularly buy at supermarkets




Respondents for the Most Trusted U.S. Food Retailers’ research study were recruited via email to an online survey in September 2017. The study was conducted in conjunction with the BrandSpark Most Trusted Retailers study, 2017 edition.

Respondents were garnered from a national panel representing residents of the United States over the age of 18 who participate in grocery shopping for their household. The sample of 2,488 respondents is nationally representative by age, gender, census region and income level. The final weighted sample is 68% women and 32% men.

Insights for the Most Trusted U.S. Food Retailers’ research was conducted by BrandSpark International, which combines real-world consumer and shopper insights with marketing credentials and services. BrandSpark Research focuses on insights that decode the shopper mindset, specializing in understanding their retail and e-commerce experiences. BrandSpark Marketing Services runs leading CPG awards programs Best New Product Awards and BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards as well as consumer product trial and amplification platform Shopper Army.

For more information, visit BrandSpark.com.

Illustration by Holly Wales.


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