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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we grocery shop, and in the midst of changes, it’s given chains the ability to show up in new ways — keeping prices reasonable, making customers feel safe, and providing new options for convenience.
Food & Wine’s annual Top 10 Best Supermarkets list just released, and it shows that at a time when people are less brand-loyal to their supermarkets than ever before, the little extras make all the difference.
Here’s the list, counting down:
Costco did a good job keeping employees and customers safe by being the first major chain to regulate the number of people coming into the stores, and requiring masks. With their bulk-size products, they also were a good place to shop for pandemic-type grocery trips.
The 2020 Dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index, which surveys households throughout the U.S., ranked Costco as #6 — and that was before the pandemic.
We’re glad their free samples are back, but man, we’re going to miss their half-sheet cakes.
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The U.S.’s largest employee-owned grocery store scaled-up their curbside pickup program, and in the midst of farmers throwing away milk and produce due to supply chain issues, Publix bought those surpluses and donated them.
Publix also continued to offer prepared deli foods when others were pulling back on them, for a grateful customer base in Florida and the Southeast.
Newsweek ranked Publix #1 for customer service among grocery stores in their 2020 America’s Best Customers Service list.
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8. Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s was #1 last year on the Dunnhumby survey, and was bumped off by H-E-B, but Food & Wine had plenty of good things to say for their #8 grocery store.
Although TJ’s didn’t add grocery pickup or delivery to their services, they made the list because of their low-cost top-notch products and highly rated shopping experience — and because it was obvious by the lines outside Trader Joe’s that folks couldn’t get enough of them.
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7. Winco Foods
The employee-owned, Boise-based Winco Foods is loved in the Northwest and along the West Coast for their vast number of affordable store brand goods, bulk offerings and some of the country’s lowest prices. The Dunnhumby survey found that while Winco was #11 overall — but #3(!) for best prices nationwide.
Additionally, the chain got special recognition for handing out a sanitized shopping cart to each customer while they waited in line to enter the store — making customers happy but also creating automatic social distancing.
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German-based grocery store Lidl made a good impression on Food & Wine not just for bringing high-end supermarket croissants to the East Coast, but they got Top 10 placement for how they’ve treated employees, offering medical coverage for all employees and covering all costs of COVID-19 testing and care.
Of course, super-low prices on produce, meat and other staples, rotating “fresh deals,” plus a top-notch, low-cost store brand doesn’t hurt, either.
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5. Market Basket
New England’s Market Basket is known for their good wages, industry-low prices and now — their coronavirus preparedness, being some of the first to proactively introduce senior shopping hours, plexiglass shields, and masks and gloves for employees.
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4. New Seasons
The Portland-area market known for fresh foods, local produce and a sizeable organic selection got Food & Wine’s attention because they were more proactive than the government, being one of the first to require masks and actually asking customers to stay home — putting people ahead of profits.
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The Midwestern superstar chain Hy-Vee got high marks for serving their customers, employees and community. During the pandemic they expanded home delivery service, added their super-popular prepared meals to curbside pickup, implemented key job protections for employees, and matched customer donations to food banks, Food & Wine said.
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Food & Wine gushed over the Mid-Atlantic/Northeastern grocery store chain back in 2017 for their high-quality house brands, dedication to organic foods, massive produce section, couponer-friendly loyalty club and overall massive selection.
The magazine said Wegmans took many safety precautions before they were required to do so, and cared well for employees.
Wegman’s was in the Top 5 of the Dunnhumby report, too, coming in at #5, and they were #1 last year in Market Force’s ranking of best grocery stores.
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If you’re fortunate enough to live in Texas, you know what’s up when it comes to H-E-B. The 115-year-old grocery store was already well-loved for their prices, high-quality store brands and curbside pickup, but Food & Wine says they cemented their first-place finish with how they’ve handled the coronavirus era.
They enacted emergency plans quickly, helped customers access federal stimulus funds and launched a new line of high-quality prepared foods.
In January, pre-pandemic, the Dunnhumby Index also ranked H-E-B as #1 — unseating Trader Joe’s for the first time in 2 years.