Competition among grocery chains heats up across NC

File photo

RALEIGH — When it comes to the grocery wars here in North Carolina, the competition is heating up. Just last month, Greensboro-based The Fresh Market was recognized as the “Best Supermarket in America” for 2021 in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. For the list, a panel of 10Best local experts and contributors nominated U.S. supermarkets based on value, selection and service, and then readers cast their votes. 

The Fresh Market opened its first store in Greensboro in 1982 when founders Ray and Beverly Berry returned from a trip to Europe with a vision to imitate the charm of a European-style fresh food market, a place where shoppers could have a more intimate and personalized shopping experience in contrast to the warehouse style so common in American grocery stores. The Fresh Market now operates 159 locations in 22 states. 

The store’s CEO Jason Potter says winning the award is significant. “Being nominated by USA Today’s panel of experts is an honor in itself, but to then be voted as the #1 supermarket in America by their readers is especially meaningful. It shows that the improvements we’ve implemented in our stores over the last year are being recognized by our guests. The award is a true testament to our team members who offer impeccable guest service every day and our guests whose business and support we greatly appreciate.”

Though the award is certainly impressive, competition among various local and national grocers here in NC is certainly on the rise. Many of the country’s largest national chains are also expanding their reach, hoping to gain market share and establish loyal customer bases. Publix Super Markets, Inc. is constructing its latest Distribution Center in Greensboro. With 49 stores across the state, Publix has roughly 7,350 associates in North Carolina alone “We are committed to being a great place to work in North Carolina and our associates, who are also owners, are passionately focused on delivering the highest level of service, locally grown products and award-winning private label products to the communities we serve,” says media relations manager Jared Glover.

George Jenkins opened the first Publix Food Store, in Winter Haven, FL in 1930. In 1935, he opened a second location across town. He closed these first two stores to open his dream store in 1940. This would become the first Publix Super Market. The store included what were considered true innovations back in those days such as air conditioning, fluorescent lighting, electric eye doors and terrazzo floors. 

 Publix is now the largest employee-owned company in the U.S. with more than 225,000 associates and currently operates 1,264 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Glover says the company has been recognized by Fortune magazine as a great place to work for the last 23 consecutive years. 

Then there is Wegmans Super Market Inc. Last week the chain opened its fourth NC-based store in Wake Forest. Although the mega store’s grand opening was widely anticipated, many locals say they’ll wait a few weeks to let the crowds thin out. “I won’t even try to shop there until it’s been open for about three weeks,” says North Raleigh resident Jen Parrot. 

Wegmans is also a family owned company, founded in 1916 and headquartered in Rochester, NY.  With 106 stores located up and down the East Coast it operates 48 in New York, 18 in Pennsylvania, 9 in New Jersey, 13 in Virginia, 8 in Maryland, 6 in Massachusetts, and 4 in North Carolina. It is one of the largest private companies in the U.S. with 52,000 employees and a 2019 annual sales revenue of over $9.7 billion.

According to public relations specialist Marcie Rivera, Wegmans has also been recognized by Fortune, named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ for 23 years, and ranked #4 in 2021. She says that the pandemic brought on many changes over the past year including growth of their e-commerce business, technology solutions, and the digital experience as it relates to customers. 

“Additional safety measures included required face coverings, plexiglass shields at service areas, social distancing through visual indicators placed on the floor throughout the store, dedicated cleaning teams responsible for the increased sanitation of high-contact touchpoints, and operating stores well below capacity limits.” During peak shopping hours, store teams actually used people counters to ensure customers stayed within the lowered capacity limits and store leaders were encouraged to close the doors and control the flow of people into the store if needed.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic seeming to come to an end, every has to go grocery shopping at some point and luckily North Carolinians have no shortage of safe options to choose from. According to a recent ranking, North Carolina-based Food Lion as the most popular grocery store among shoppers here, beating out Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s and Publix for the top spot.