Welcome to the unveiling of Winsight Grocery Business’ annual ranking of the nation’s Top 20 Food Retailers, which plots the industry’s most influential companies in the U.S. grocery space. Based on sales data from Kantar Consulting, a foremost global research, insights and information consultancy, the Top 20 list provides a well-composed snapshot of the top food sellers, 10 of whose roots are tied to pure-play grocery, with the balance of others descending from nongrocery lineage, including mass, drug, club, dollar and convenience.
As a composite, the Top 20 contenders, to greater and lesser degrees, have been busy investing in e-commerce, training, talent and infrastructure to reposition their brands for a new era. When detached as a subset, the 10 grocery contenders on the Top 20 leaderboard—Walmart (1), The Kroger Co. (2), Albertsons Cos. (6), Ahold Delhaize (7), Publix (8), Aldi (11), H-E-B (14), Wakefern Food Corp. (15), Meijer (18) and Southeastern Grocers (20)—represent the vanguard of multicapable retailers conveying relevance and value to several shopper groups simultaneously. A key to the endurance of the leading performers of late was an awakening—even before Amazon went whole-hog into the food fray last year when scooping up Whole Foods Market—that new stores are no longer the sole antidote to growing their businesses. In some cases, shedding stores is proving to be an equally important element in the delicate balancing act of capital investments and measured curtailments.
U.S. Grocery Sales ($ millions)
*Estimated **Compound annual growth rate
Note: Pharmacy sales included as part of total grocery sales.
Elley Symmes, senior analyst of grocery retail, sales and shopper practice, Americas, for Kantar Consulting, foresees in the not-too-distant future a reranking of the food chain, courtesy of a trifecta of what was once referred to as “alternate channel players” taking over the leaderboard. “Walgreens, Aldi and Amazon will outpace their grocery retailer counterparts, growing sales above the industry average by a minimum of 200 basis points,” she says.
By 2023, Symmes anticipates Walgreens, driven by pharmacy sales, will surpass Kroger as the second largest grocery seller in the U.S., while Amazon.com is forecast to jump from No. 15 to the seventh largest grocery seller. The net result of this is a complicated competitive retail landscape for the traditional supermarket channel, whose incumbents’ success will be tied closely to their abilities to “look at the whole industry—and not just focus on conventional supermarkets as the primary competitor.” Symmes reiterates the message to allied trading partners working with conventional grocery chains, be it vendors, brokers or financial firms, all of which “must also understand this dynamic to best serve [retail food] customers.”