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This “best grocer” list is the worst

america’s best grocers
The Berkeley Bowl Marketplace needs to be on this list. (Photo: Pamela Riemenschneider)

“Best” lists are both a blessing and a curse for retailers. While it’s great to see exceptional grocers get some bragging rights in big media, sometimes these lists leave me scratching my head.

Usually, it has something to do with the methodology.

A new list, ranking the “best” grocery store chain in every state was just published by USA Today. 

The list’s creator, 24/7 Tempo, analyzed Yelp reviews and ratings to identify the top 5 retailers in each state, and then tracked each of those five using Google Trends to measure search frequency in a one-week period to pick a winner.

While this kind of sounds scientific, I’m still skeptical. Yelp’s algorithm can get a little wonky when it comes to ad dollars and sponsorships.

Don’t get me started on how these guys picked a “best” independent grocer for every state, too. (In this case an “independent” is a single-store operator.)


They picked Trader Joe’s as the “best” grocery store in New York.

Those of us in retail are giving that choice some side-eye, for sure, because everyone knows New York is the home of Wegmans Food Markets, the Marcia Brady of grocery stores in America.

I kid. While I’m sure many grocers out there feel a little like Jan Brady (“Wegmans! Wegmans! Wegmans!”) when the Rochester, NY-based chain comes out on top of most rankings, the honor is well-deserved.

The dominant grocer in my area (Texas), H-E-B, also earns many accolades –  for good reason.

But is Trader Joe’s really—really—the “best” grocer in New York?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some great retailers mentioned in these rankings, but I decided to spend an afternoon digging through the list and came up with a few additions for your consideration.

Arizona: 24/7 Tempo picked Sprouts Farmers Market as the top grocery chain and I think that’s a fine choice, but for independents let’s talk about the Superstition Ranch Market. If you’ve never gone, that place is a wild ride. Those guys know how to move some rejects.

Arkansas: Ouch. The science of Yelp and Google Trends didn’t pick the homer here. No mention of Walmart Inc., and instead it was Sam’s Club that edged out Harps Foods somehow? I respectfully disagree. And I cannot abide that my favorite single-store operator, Allen’s Foods, was ignored.

California: Picking a “best” in a place as diverse as California is impossible. From Nugget Market, Save Mart/Lucky California and Raley’s Family of Fine Stores in the north to Gelson’s, Stater Bros., Bristol Farms, Northgate Gonzalez and more in the south, it’s hard to pick a winner. For small independents, though, you can’t beat The Berkeley Bowl Marketplace. I’ve never heard of Nick’s Super Market in San Francisco, which was mentioned in the article. Are they someone’s inside joke?

Connecticut: The list picked Stop & Shop. Nope. It has to be Stew Leonard’s, based in Norwalk, or even Big Y, which is headquartered in nearby Springfield, MA.

Florida: Publix is an obvious choice here, and the Lakeland, FL, retailer was chosen as the best in much of the Southeast, but the best independent? That HAS to be Orlando-based Freshfields Farm, which also has a store in Jacksonville.

Georgia: The independent they picked, Supermercado Chicago, looks great, but it’s no Your Dekalb Farmers Market. Those of us who have been to this Atlanta-area juggernaut of grocery know it is the epitome of amazing fresh foods.

Idaho: The list picked Albertsons, but my heart picks Winco, which is based in Boise. I stop at every Winco I see because it’s such a unique experience. Winco, for me, is the official store of the Doomsday Preppers, but they have awesome produce at fantastic prices, too.

Illinois: The list picked Jewels (as Chicagoans call it), but there are so many small independent chains in the Chicagoland area to choose from! Pete’s Fresh Market and Angelo Caputo’s are some of my favorites, but this is like trying to pick a favorite kid. You know you have one, but you can’t say it out loud because you’ll offend the others.

Massachusetts: The list picked Market Basket as the best big time retailer and I’m sure locals agree. For independents, I’m a big fan of Russo’s in Watertown. It’s like a garden center and a European street market had a baby made of fantastic fresh produce.

Minnesota: Here’s an eye-opener. The list picked Hy-Vee, a relative newcomer in the market. That should make established players like Coborn’s, Lunds & Byerly’s and Cub Foods take notice. For independents, I was shocked The Wedge Co-Op wasn’t chosen.

New Mexico: The list picked Sprouts Farmers Market but I’d go with Lowe’s Market here. I haven’t had a chance to see one in person, but I’ve been really impressed with the company from industry events.

Ohio: No mention of Jungle Jim’s International Market? The largest sales floor – 300,000 square feet — in the U.S.? Outrageous.

Oklahoma: Sam’s Club came out on top here, yet again. How? As for independents, Firelake Discount Foods, which is owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, does some fantastic things with fresh produce. They’re a fun one to watch.

North Carolina: Food Lion? Really? It wasn’t even Harris Teeter here? I was kind of surprised to see this one. Lowe’s Foods has really undergone some dramatic changes over the past few years and I’d pick them over Food Lion if it was a popularity contest.

Rhode Island: Whole Foods was allegedly the “best” grocery store in Rhode Island, according to this list, and if New York wasn’t already throwing it for me, this is where I call shenanigans because everyone knows Dave’s Marketplace is the best local grocer in Rhode Island. Full. Stop.

Vermont: The list picked Shaw’s. I pick Market 32 by Price Chopper. End of story.

Virginia: The list picked Harris Teeter. Have you even SEEN the new Food City stores? Feast your eyes on this one in Abingdon that opened in October. K-Va-T isn’t playing around here with these new concepts.

Washington: This state is so diverse. Kroger’s Fred Meyer banner is popular, for sure, but there are so many other options, from QFC (another Kroger banner) to PCC Natural Markets to Metropolitan Market. East of the mountains offers Yoke’s, too. As for independents, Central Market’s Ballard store is hard to beat.

While I didn’t cover every state, I’m sure I’ve given you at least a few stores to add to your bucket list.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.