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Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive

Lila Margalit
August 24, 2023
Mid-Atlantic Grocery Deep Dive

With inflation subsiding and grocery prices finally beginning to stabilize, we continued our regional grocery round robin – diving into the data for the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Which supermarkets are most popular in the Mid-Atlantic region? And what distinguishes leading chains from one another?

Ahold Delhaize With a Solid Win

In Delaware and Virginia, Food Lion stood out as the most-visited chain, commanding 20.7% and 27.7% of statewide visit share, respectively. Owned by Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize USA, Food Lion boasts about 1100 locations across 10 states. And with its emphasis on affordability, the chain has emerged as an attractive destination for consumers seeking to stretch their dollars. 

In Maryland and Washington, D.C., the grocery scene was led by Giant Food, another Ahold Delhaize USA brand that has more than 150 stores in D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia (Not to be confused with Pennsylvania-based Giant Food Stores, also owned by Ahold Delhaize). West Virginia, for its part, was dominated by Kroger, which received 47.3% of statewide visits in July 2023. 

A Regional Breakdown

Delving further into the data reveals that Food Lion was among the top three most-visited chains for all analyzed states – absent only from the Washington, D.C rankings, where the chain doesn’t have a presence. Kroger and Harris Teeter (another Kroger brand) took second and third place, respectively, in Virginia – with Giant Food coming up just behind Harris Teeter with 8.4% visit share. And Albertsons-owned Safeway and ACME markets attracted the second-largest visit share in Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Overall, Food Lion cornered the regional market with 19.3% of visits, followed by Giant Food with 14.8%, and Kroger with 10.3%. New York-based Wegmans, which has 25 stores in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware, ranked 7th region-wide with 4.3% of visits, despite not making the top three for any individual state.

Food Lion and Giant Food: Recipes for Success

A look at 2023 visit trends for the regional grocery champions – Food Lion and Giant – shows that the two banners experienced greater year-over-year (YoY) visit growth than the wider grocery segment during most months of the year. Food Lion, which delivered its 42nd consecutive quarter of positive sales growth in Q1 2023, continues to perform particularly well. 

So what is the secret to Food Lion and Giant Food’s regional success? How have they both continued to thrive in what is a very competitive market? And what distinguishes Food Lion and Giant Food – both owned by the same company – from one another? 

Geographic and Demographic Differences

Trade area analysis shows that while both chains are traditional grocery stores, they occupy somewhat different niches, both geographically and demographically.

Geographically, Food Lion tends to be more spread out, while Giant Food is highly concentrated in particular metro areas. In Virginia, Food Lion dominates the southern part of the state, with concentrations in hubs like Richmond and Virginia Beach – while Giant Food has the bulk of its locations in more affluent D.C. suburbs like Falls Church and Alexandria. In Maryland, too, Giant Food is concentrated in the relatively well-off D.C. suburbs, as well as in the Baltimore area, while Food Lion is more widely dispersed. 

Partially as a result of these geographic differences, Giant Food tends to attract more affluent shoppers than Food Lion. In both Virginia and Maryland, Giant Food’s captured markets had higher median household incomes (HHIs) than statewide medians, while Food Lion had relatively lower. And in both states, Giant Food shoppers were more likely than Food Lion customers to visit places like Starbucks and Trader Joe’s, while Food Lion shoppers were more likely than Giant Food visitors to visit value leader Walmart.

*A chain or venue’s captured market refers to the population residing in its trade area, weighted to reflect the actual share of visits from each Census Block Group comprising the trade area. Analyzing a chain’s captured market provides insight into its customer base – the people that visit the chain.  

Looking Ahead

As we’ve seen throughout our regional grocery tour, there’s plenty of room for several different grocery brands in any given local market – particularly those that manage to carve out distinct niches that set them apart from the pack. And in the Mid-Atlantic region, Food Lion and Giant have both found success by targeting different geographical regions and appealing to different audiences. How will regional dynamics be impacted by cooling inflation in the months ahead? Will less budget-oriented chains pick up steam as prices level off? 

Follow’s data-driven insights to find out. 

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