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Small formats win big in USA Today supermarket brand list

For the second year in a row, Greensboro, NC-based The Fresh Market garnered the “Best Supermarket in America” award from a USA Today-backed vote naming the Top 10 Best Supermarket Brands in the U.S.

These lists are a great boost for the retailers recognized, of course. The Fresh Market sent out a news release bragging about its repeat win:

“We are thrilled to be recognized as the best in America again,” said Jason Potter, President and CEO of The Fresh Market, in a news release. “We are thankful to our guests for their votes and ongoing support this past year, and grateful for our team members who offer impeccable service every day.”

The complete list includes:

  1. The Fresh Market
  2. Hy-Vee
  3. ALDI
  4. Lidl
  5. Stew Leonard’s
  6. Market Basket
  7. Publix
  8. Wegmans Food Markets
  9. Trader Joe’s
  10. PCC Community Markets

But how does a retailer even get nominated?

10Best awards are determined by popular voting based on a list of nominees put together by editors who consult a “panel of experts.” This particular list’s experts include a couple of travel bloggers and the social media production person for 10Best.

I want to know which other stores were nominated, but I can’t find it. I can’t find a retailer asking fans to vote for it. I can’t find anything. Voting takes place over a period of 28 days. Surely one of these finalists would call for votes on social media? My Google skills are pretty good and I’m coming up blank.

I checked out other votes currently in progress, including the “Best Food Subscription Box” and there are only 20 to choose from, most of which I’ve never heard of.

I’m never a huge fan of these lists with mysterious provenance. I much prefer the more transparent rankings from organizations like Consumer Reports, though I’ve questioned their results for best supermarkets in the past. I can recall Dierbergs in St. Louis outperformed West Sacramento, CA-based Raley’s in local produce one year, for example. That is a geographic and logistics impossibility.

USA Today’s list of winners is an interesting slice of retail in the U.S. I’d consider five of the Top 10 to be a more specialty style retailer operating in smaller formats.

The Fresh Market is designed to be a more “intimate” “European” shopping experience. Speaking of “European” shopping experiences, Aldi and Lidl are straight out of Germany, with Trader Joe’s loosely following a similar shopping experience of small format, value-conscious (yes, even Trader Joe’s is a value format in some ways – Two Buck Chuck, anyone?) treasure hunts. PCC Community Markets is an outlier with its community and organic focus.

The rest, Hy-Vee, Stew Leonard’s, Market Basket, Publix, and Wegmans are the usual suspects when it comes to differentiated regional grocery powerhouses (with the glaring omission of my beloved H-E-B.)

What’s missing?

Walmart. Kroger. Albertsons.

I think that says something about where Americans find it a pleasure to shop (to borrow Publix’s tagline), versus where it’s a necessity to spend their grocery budget to feed their families.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.