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Rio Grande Valley’s unique retail scene

The Rio Grande Valley is home to a unique produce retail scene unlike any other in the Lone Star State. Thanks to its prime position on the border, the Valley is a prime conduit for Mexican fresh produce imports.

While the majority of these fruits and vegetables are shipped to destinations across the United States and beyond, a healthy portion of Mexican-grown fruits and vegetables—as well as locally grown commodities—land in the area’s local supermarkets.

As the southernmost tip of Texas, the Valley is made up of four counties: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are 113 grocers in the region that serve 1.3 million residents.

“The food retail scene in the Texas Valley is competitive but stable,” said Gary Huddleston, who serves as food store consultant for the Texas Retailers Association (TRA), which represents most food retailers in the state.

“Because of the excellent availability of local produce, many food retailers take advantage of the quality and freshness of the product,” he adds.

Grocers in the Rio Grande Valley face plenty of obstacles from tough competition to import issues to food deserts. Even so, these resilient retailers remain optimistic about their future—and the future overall—particularly as new technologies and services become available in the area.

“The Texas Retailers Association sees supermarkets expanding and updating their stores to meet the demands of more variety and also new technology,” Huddleston said. “We see the expansion of both online ordering with store pickup and home delivery.”

The Valley continues to be an important market for food retailers, he said.

“Tourism and agriculture continue to increase, which brings more income to the market,” Huddleston says. “Food retailers will react to what the customer wants and desires, thus supermarkets will increase the variety on healthy options, organics, and fresh produce. The Texas Valley will remain competitive, and the food retailers who do the best job responding to customers will be successful.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full supplement.