Posts tagged with "Whole Foods"

Cheap thrills: How discount grocery chain Aldi is giving fancy supermarkets a run for their money

December 9, 2019

For years, Amber Walker held a dim view of Aldi, the discount grocer whose U.S. headquarters sits just a mile from her Batavia home, outside Chicago.  She associated it with dented 10-cent cans and no-name brands. She did not understand why, of all things, it also sold hammocks.

But Walker’s negative perception swiftly changed after her first visit to Aldi in decades in 2016, when the chain started accepting credit cards, and she found not the dingy floors from her childhood memories but a budget Shangri-La, The Chicago Tribune reports.

She could buy a week’s worth of groceries for her family of four for less than $100, and discover treasures in an aisle dedicated to random rotating items that “I don’t need but can’t live without.” Aldi, at least in Walker’s eyes, got even better when it broadened its limited selection to include more fresh, organic and high-end products—still at steep discounts— while undergoing an aggressive national expansion and chainwide remodeling blitz. Walker’s store in Batavia, renovated in 2017, even got a bakery.

Indeed, today, Aldi—which operates more than 1,900 stores in 36 states—takes what it calls “a simple, cost-effective approach to grocery shopping that saves [customers] on their grocery bills.” The store claims to save  shoppers up to 50% on their weekly must-haves by offering Aldi-branded goods—many of them manufactured by the nation’s leading food producers—instead of  name brands.

As a spruced-up Aldi climbs toward its goal of having 2,500 stores by 2022—which would make it the third-largest grocer in the nation by store count—converts like Walker are putting aside old perceptions of the brand and embracing the no-frills ethos that allows Aldi to sell quality products for cheap.

Although, The Chicago Tribune reports, behemoths like Walmart and Kroger continue to dominate the market, they are watching their backs as the German-born chain reshapes expectations of the shopping experience.

“I’m always shocked at what I can get for the cost,” said Walker, 37, an animal trainer who previously did her regular shopping at Walmart, Meijer, Costco and Super Target. “Aldi gets my business first, and then I will fill in holes elsewhere.”

Known for cost-saving measures—such as requiring customers to bag their own groceries and pay a quarter deposit to access a grocery cart—Aldi says its customer base has swelled as it modernizes its digs and broadens its selection to include items like fresh salmon, organic strawberries and artisanal cheeses.

At remodeled stores, which have been expanded to fit a bigger produce and fresh foods section, customer traffic has increased by 30% to 40%, Scott Patton, vice president of Corporate Buying told the Chicago-based news outlet.

“The more variety of products we carry, the more customers view Aldi as a place they can do their first shop of the week,” he said. While shoppers still have to go elsewhere for fresh ginger or water chestnuts or organic tofu— though Aldi is testing the latter—and can’t get a single lime without buying a one-pound bag, Patton said Aldi should cover 90% to 95% of their grocery list.

Aldi is ending the year with 2,000 stores, including 160 in the Chicago area, its largest market by store count. It has completed 70% of its $180 million in planned local renovations and is gaining ground on Jewel-Osco, the biggest local player, which has 188 stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.

And the outlook is excellent: In a report last year, Morgan Stanley said one in five customers who recently switched grocery stores took their business to Aldi, a greater share than opted for Costco, Kroger, Target and Whole Foods. Walmart, the market leader, got 30% of switchers, but that was flat from the prior year while Aldi’s share was up significantly.

However, for all the Aldi nerds, there are plenty of people who prefer a more robust grocery experience, The Chicago Tribune says. Aldi does not have prepared hot foods or in-store dining options or butcher counters that shoppers value elsewhere.  At least, not yet.

“Would we ever have a piano player, a sushi bar or juice bar?” Patton said. “I would never say never. But I would say this: If we ever had any of those things, it would be the most efficient of our competitors, and we would do it better and faster than anyone else.”

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Consumer Reports: Bottled water produced by Whole Foods, Dr. Pepper has high arsenic content

April 19, 2019

An April 17 report published by Consumer Reports  warns that the arsenic levels in popular brands of bottled water are dangerously high.

That cR study finds that 11 brands out of 130 contained detectable amounts of arsenic in them, making them potentially hazardous to drink over the long run.

Over the past few years, as consumers have worried more about the quality of municipal tap water, bottled water has surged in popularity and is now the nation’s best-selling bottled beverage. But the CR investigation has found that in some cases bottled water on store shelves contains more potentially harmful arsenic than tap water flowing into some homes.

“It makes no sense that consumers can purchase bottled water that is less safe than tap water,” commented James Dickerson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports. “If anything, bottled water—a product for which people pay a premium, often because they assume it’s safer—should be regulated at least as strictly as tap water.”

Current federal regulations say that bottled waters must have arsenic levels no higher than 10 parts per billion. HoweverConsumer Reports says several experts think that arsenic levels in bottled water greater than 3 parts per billion constitute a health risk.

In the test, four brands showed detectable levels of arsenic (below 3 ppb); while six brands had arsenic levels of 3 ppb or higher. Those six brands include:

  • Starkey (owned by Whole Foods),
  • Peñafiel (owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper),
  • Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water,
  • Volvic (owned by Danone), and
  • Two regional brands, Crystal Creamery and EartH₂

What’s shocking,  however, is that one of those brands–Peñafiel, owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper–had an average of 17 ppb.

In response to CR’s reporting, Keurig Dr. Pepper said it will suspend bottled water production for two weeks at its Mexico facility, but a recall is not planned. However, Consumer Reports has recommended that the company should recall the contaminated products immediately, and if they do not, the FDA should step in.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about the arsenic levels in your bottled water, Consumer Reports has a list of bottled water brands that you should stick to due to the fact that all the brands had arsenic levels that were nondetectable or below 3 parts per billion. Those brands that Consumer Reports considers to be safe include:

  • Aquafina
  • Arrowhead
  • Dasani
  • Deer Park
  • Essentia
  • Evian
  • Fiji
  • Glaceau Smart Water
  • Ice Mountain
  • Kirkland (Costco)
  • Life WTR
  • Market Pantry (Target)
  • Nestlé Pure Life
  • Niagara
  • Poland Spring
  • Propel

Research contact: @ConsumerReports

Reputation poll: Apple needs polishing

March 14, 2018

The Apple and Google corporate brands have lost their elan—while Elon Musk’s Tesla is rocketing higher after launching a red Roadster into deep space and Amazon continues to ride high at number one in the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient for the third consecutive year.

Since 1999, the Reputation Quotient has quantified the reputation ratings for the 100 most visible U.S. companies, according to Harris.

Specifically, in a survey of about 26,000 U.S. adults, iPhone manufacturer Apple dropped to number 29 this year from its previous position at number five, and Google dropped from number eight to number 28. Apple had ranked at number two as recently as 2016.

John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, told Reuters in an interview that the likely reason Apple and Google plummeted was that they have not introduced as many attention-grabbing products as they did in past years, such as when Google rolled out Google Maps or Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

“Google and Apple, at this moment, are sort of in valleys,” Gerzema said. “We’re not quite to self-driving cars yet. We’re not yet seeing all the things in artificial intelligence they’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, Gerzema attributed Amazon’s continued high ranking to its expanding footprint in consumers’ lives, into areas such as groceries via its Whole Foods acquisition.

Elon Musk’s Tesla climbed from number nine to number three on the strength of sending its Roadster into space aboard a SpaceX booster—despite fleeting success delivering cars on time on Earth, Gerzema told Reuters.

He’s a modern-day carnival barker—it’s incredible,” Gerzema said of Musk. He noted that the Tesla CEO “is able to capture the public’s imagination when every news headline is incredibly negative. They’re filling a void of optimism.”

This year’s top ten rankings go as follows: Amazon, Wegman’s Food Markets, Tesla Motors, Chick-fil-A, Walt Disney, HEB Grocery, United Parcel Service, Publix Super Markets, Patagonia, and Aldi.

Last place went to Japanese auto parts supplier Takata, which distributed air bags that inflated with too much force—allegedly causing 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries, and prompting the largest recall in automotive history.

Research contact: @StephenNellis

Do vegetarians prefer Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods?

November 20, 2017

About 5% of U.S. adults consider themselves to be vegetarians—and 2% call themselves vegans, according to a poll by Gallup conducted in 2012.  Their demographics are surprising: More political Conservatives are vegetarian than are Liberals; and many more unmarried people eschew meat than those who are married.

Where do they find the food that best supports their specific diets? And what do they look for at the supermarket? According to the Vegetarian Society, an advocacy group, most members look for clear vegetarian labeling, the quality and range of veggie products, the number of specialist veggie brands stocked, and the quality and range of fresh produce.

With those factors in mind, which market is their favorite? Civic Science polled U.S. adults this year to find out.

The pollsters first identified Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as America’s two “mainstream meccas” for vegetarians and vegans. “These chains offer products and brands that cater to plant-based lifestyles, which are not  always easy to find in your everyday supermarket,” the researchers said.

Which supermarket chain comes out the winner among the members of this picky audience?

Civic Science found that 47% of vegetarians/vegans have a favorable view of shopping at Whole Foods. In comparison, only 30% of the general population (ages 13+) has a favorable view of shopping there.

So, what about TJ’s? More than half of vegetarians/vegans (57%) have a favorable view of shopping at Trader Joe’s, which is significantly higher than the previously noted Whole Foods favorability among vegetarians/vegans (47%). It’s also much higher than Trader Joe’s favorability among the general population (35%).

Thus, according to the latest pool, Trader Joe’s comes out as the clear winner among vegetarians/vegans.Civic Science commented,It’s also worth noting that favorability for both chains is much higher among vegetarians/vegans than among the general population. So in that sense, we suppose they’re both winners.”

Research contact: jordan@civicscience.com