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A Range of Retail in the Rio Grande

When it comes to grocery stores, the Rio Grande Valley offers a mixed bag.

The region includes everything from big box stores and regional chains to specialty markets and standalone mom-and-pop shops. However, while there are a handful of smaller stores peppered across the region, a powerful duo reigns supreme.

“The Valley is dominated by two food retailers: H-E-B and Walmart,” said Gary Huddleston, who serves as food store consultant for the Texas Retailers Association (TRA). He said both companies are responding to competition by offering more services and products, including a better selection of organic produce.

Retail food trade publication, The Shelby Report, released data in 2018 about the grocers holding the greatest market share in South Texas—which includes the Valley’s cities of McAllen and Brownsville in addition to San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Laredo, and Corpus Christi.

According to the report, H-E-B controls nearly 60 percent of the South Texas market with a total of 204 stores, while Walmart has 139 stores and claims 27 percent of the region’s market share (market share was calculated based on the amount of money brought in by each grocery chain, not by the number of stores).

Other South Texas grocers that made the list include Albertsons/Safeway (15 stores with 2 percent of market share), wholesaler Grocers Supply (52 stores, 1.8 percent), Lowe’s (not to be confused with the home improvement stores, with 43 stores, 1.6 percent), Whole Foods (7 stores, 1.5 percent), SuperTarget (9 stores, 1.4 percent), Trader Joe’s (5 stores, 0.6 percent), and Sprouts (9 stores, 0.5 percent).

While smaller chains have snatched market share other parts of South Texas, H-E-B and Walmart continue to control the Valley.

“In the Valley, you basically have H-E-B, then Walmart, and to a very small degree, Target,” said Ruben Guadalupe Cavazos, manager of Ruben’s Grocery, a family-owned and operated independent grocery store in McAllen. “But Target doesn’t sell any fresh produce or other fresh items here in the Valley, they basically sell frozen food and canned goods.”

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