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Southwestern Grocery Dive

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
August 2, 2023
Southwestern Grocery Dive

For today’s installment of our regional grocery tour, we dove into the southern half of the contiguous Western United States – focusing on the states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah (Given California’s exceptionally large market, we wrote about it separately). Which grocery chains are drawing the most visits in the Southwest region? And how are smaller, local groceries faring in the competitive grocery space?

Southwestern Grocery: The Big Picture

Using Placer.ai’s Brand Dominance tool, which provides visit share data for the 10 most-frequented grocery chains in each state, we analyzed the relative dominance of leading brands throughout the region. 

In four out of five Southwestern states, Kroger banners came out on top. In Nevada and Utah, Smith’s won with 27.0% and 40.5% of visits, respectively. In Arizona, Fry’s Food Stores led the grocery sector, a Kroger banner featuring 127 stores, all in the Grand Canyon State. And in Colorado, some 43.6% of the state visit share went to Kroger-owned King Soopers – another highly local brand with 121 stores, nearly all in Colorado. In New Mexico, Albertsons (including both Albertsons and Albertsons Market) captured 29.1% of visits. 

Fry’s Food Stores and Safeway Lead the Region

Drilling down deeper into the data shows just how well-positioned Kroger and Albertsons are to lead the Southwest grocery space as they prepare to merge: In every state but Utah, both the first and second-place spots were occupied by either a Kroger or Albertsons banner. States led by a Kroger banner had an Albertsons brand in second place, and vice-versa. 

But the data also shows that grocery chains don’t need to top the statewide rankings to thrive. Even though Safeway, for example, did not rank first for any individual state, it once again emerged as a region-wide leader, ranking just behind Fry’s Food Stores with 13.5% of the visit share in June 2023. Owned by Albertsons, Safeway boasts 215 stores throughout the Southwest – 207 of them in Arizona and Colorado, the region’s most populous states. Other chains, including Walmart Neighborhood Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, WinCo Foods, and Trader Joe’s commanded significant regional visit share, despite not making it to the top two for any of the five states. 

Food City - Arizona: Plenty of Room for Smaller Fish

But even in a market dominated by major national players, there’s plenty of room for smaller, local brands to thrive. And Food City - Arizona, the low-cost, local grocery chain that specializes in Hispanic-focused products (unrelated to the Food City that operates in Tennessee and surrounding states) is a case in point. Since 1993, Food-City Arizona has been owned by local grocery company Bashas’, which in 2021 was bought out by California-based Raley’s Supermarkets. But despite the change in ownership, Food City continues to operate as a separate brand, catering to value-oriented consumers on the hunt for specialty items or simply looking for more affordable baskets. 

And as inflation led price-wary shoppers to trade down in the first half of 2023, Arizona’s Food City drew in the crowds. The chain – which captured 4.5% of the statewide visit share in June 2023 – experienced positive foot traffic growth every month since January 2023. 

Finding its Market

Analyzing the demographic breakdown of Food City’s captured market* in Phoenix, AZ – the largest city in the Southwest – shows how the chain has found success in a competitive market by carving out its own niche: On average, Food City attracts a less-affluent customer base than either Fry’s Food Stores or Safeway, and a much higher share of households with children. Fry’s and Safeway, on the other hand, attract a greater proportion of shoppers from smaller households. Unsurprisingly given its specialty focus, Food City also draws a larger share of Spanish-speaking households.

*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.  

A Regional Grocery Game

The U.S. grocery market is very much a regional one. Each area of the country has its favorite brands – from Jewel-Osco, Hy-Vee and others in the Midwest to Stop & Shop, Hannaford, and other local faves in the Northeast. In the Southwest, the grocery scene is dominated by Kroger and Albertsons banners, with additional big names such as Walmart Neighborhood Market and Trader Joe’s also commanding significant visit share. But even within this highly competitive grocery space, smaller local chains like Food City have found success by appealing to specific audiences.

For more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.

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