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Supermarkets vs. Supercenters: Who Wins Grocery Supremacy?

In the food industry, one of the most important questions can be summed up as thus: “Where do my potential customers shop?” While new retail formats have sprung up in the past few years, and more and more Americans are willing to shell out their dollars at drug stores, dollar stores and specialty markets, most people believe that a resounding number of us still rely on supermarkets and supercenters for access to food.

USDA’s latest report reinforces this idea, with the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), a joint project undertaken by the agency’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service. The survey collected detailed information about food acquisitions by all household members over a 7-day period. The information was collected information from 4,826 households (comprised of 14,317 individuals) between April 2012 and January 2013.

In the report, it was determined that roughly 44% of households complete their primary grocery shopping at supercenters, while another 45% noted supermarkets for their primary shopping. Just a scant 5% of households did their main shopping at other retail outlets, once again showing that supermarkets and supercenters were the kings of the retail food economy. The report found that SNAP households were similar to non-SNAP households in their preference of supermarkets or supercenters, but WIC households were more likely to use supercenters as their primary store (at 52%).

Another interesting point from the report was that Americans do not necessarily shop at the supermarket that is closest to their residence. This applied even to households that did not have their own vehicle. The average household was 2.14 miles away from the closest supermarket, yet the average household primarily shopped at a store 3.79 miles away from home.