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‘Best’ is subjective when it comes to ranking grocers

heb central market hatch display
H-E-B’s Central Market received the highest score in Consumer Reports’ most recent grocery rankings, and it’s easy to see why, with their creative takes in produce.

My hackles raise every time a “best” grocer/retailer/store list comes up. This time, it is my long-time beef with USA Today naming The Fresh Market No. 1 in the 10 Best Grocery Stores in the U.S.

These lists are a blessing and a curse. For The Fresh Market, it’s great. I found out about this honor from a news release they issued.  

For the others named in the article: Hy-Vee (2), Stew Leonard’s (3), Aldi (4), Heinen’s (5), Gelson’s (6), Lidl (7), Publix, (8), Trader Joe’s (9), and Wegmans (10), it’s nice to be listed.

For the countless other grocers not recognized, it’s frustrating. The list is chosen based on public vote of retailers chosen by a panel of bloggers and writers. You can read about them at the bottom of the article.

The FAQs about the methodology of the 10Best program seems to echo business’ frustration with this list. How can you be voted on if one of these seven “experts” has no exposure to your operations?

And when was this voting and how do I get to cast a vote? How many people voted? Where are they from?

And how many of them have actually shopped at The Fresh Market? I just stopped at one last week in North Carolina and, as a serial store-checker, I wouldn’t put it in my Top 5 of North Carolina, much less the entire United States. If you want to feel like you’re shopping in my grandma’s living room, that’s the store for you.

That sounds harsh, I have to say there are better grocery experiences out there.

I much prefer grocery reviews with a little more numbers in the methodology, like dunnhumby’s Retailer Preference Index. Consumer Reports’ list also breaks it down by region, with a separate category for online grocers, scoring stores on a range of criteria like cleanliness and checkout speed.

I note my perennial hometown favorite, H-E-B’s Central Market earned the highest ranking in the most recent list, but this list isn’t about MY favorite. I mean, H-E-B is the best out there, and though welcome attempts to change my mind.

For now, I invite you to read up on the “10 Best” grocers in the U.S. and see where your favorite ranks.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.