The 10 companies that top the list account for combined sales of $9.95 billion, compared with $8.6 billion for the 10 companies on last year’s list.
Whether urban or rural, the list demonstrates the diversity of the independent operators that serve their respective marketplaces.
FIVE STARSSN profiles five notable independents in the 2015 Top 50
Roche Bros.: Survival through innovation
Northgate Gonzalez: Modernizing stores
Fairway Market: Fresh food with attitude
Redner’s Warehouse Markets: Controlling costs
Festival Foods: Grows naturally
Of the two companies that lead the list — each accounting for $1.2 billion — No. 1 Fareway Stores, Boone, Iowa, serves a less urbanized demographic with 108 stores, while No. 2 Inserra Supermarkets, Mahwah, N.J., serves a more populous base with just 22 stores. (In the case of a tie, retailers are listed in alphabetical order.)
The next two operators — each of whom does $1 billion in sales — also serve diverse markets, with 79-store Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, neck-and-neck with Northgate Gonzalez Markets, Anaheim, Calif. (see related story), whose 40 stores cater to an ethnic Hispanic base.
Moving further down the list, Lowe’s Markets, Littlefield, Texas, was No. 5, with 145 stores serving a variety of smaller Texas communities, while No. 6 PAQ, Stockton, Calif., serves a more populous base in both Northern California and Hawaii.
Coming on strong are two companies of roughly equal size serving very different demographics — Rouses Enterprises, Thibodaux, La., with 46 stores in the New Orleans area, and Vallarta Supermarkets, Sylmar, Calif., with 44 stores serving a primarily Hispanic clientele.
Year-over-year comparisons with last year’s Top 50 are impacted by a change in methodology in SN’s list of the Top 75 grocery retailers in the U.S. and Canada. With the addition of consumable sales at drugstores and Amazon.com, three chains that used to be on that list now head the Top 50: Fareway, Inserra and Marsh.
The big gainers among the top independents this year were companies that expanded their store count during 2014, including Rouses, which added six new stores; Festival Foods, Onalaska, Wis. (No. 11) (related story), whose volume benefited from new stores opened at the end of 2013 plus two new stores last year; and Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark. (No. 17), which opened three new stores; while companies near the top of last year’s list that found themselves running more or less in place were PAQ and Redner’s Warehouse Markets, Reading, Pa. (No. 10) (related story), both of which saw volume dip slightly.
The biggest anomaly in the Top 50 is Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen — at No. 38, but not for long. If all goes as planned, the 18-store Pacific Northwest operator will acquire 168 Safeway and Albertsons locations across the West when those two giants merge, boosting Haggen into a major regional chain with sales approaching $3.5 billion.