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These Are the Cleanest Grocery Stores in America, According to Consumer Reports

These Are the Cleanest Grocery Stores in America, According to Consumer Reports



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The consumer advocacy group just released their list of squeaky-clean supermarkets. Find out if your favorite made the list.

You probably already know that grocery carts and plastic bags contain all sorts of germs and bacteria, but unless you’ve noticed major spills or sticky floors, you probably haven’t given too much thought to how clean your favorite grocery store really is.

Luckily, the nonprofit consumer group, Consumer Reports is there to help. They recently conducted a survey of over 75,000 people across 96 grocery stores nationwide to find out which supermarkets were the cleanest—and which ones needed a major cleanup on aisle 5.

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The survey criteria was based on certain qualities named by executives of the Cleaning Services Group (CSG), which included how clean the stores’ sidewalks and entryways were, the number of working hand sanitizers and cart wipes available, how often stores cleaned their floors (and how quickly spills were wiped up), and how spotless restrooms were.

The six grocers that got the highest marks included regional stores such as Central Market, Wegmans (which was recently voted America's favorite grocery store), Heinen’s, Gelson’s, Market Basket, and one of our favorite places, Trader Joe’s.

More about Trader Joe's from Cooking Light:

17 other stores scored high marks in cleanliness. You can read their article here, to find out which made the list. Several popular chains placed among the lowest overall in cleanliness—including Walmart Supercenter, Tops, and Key Food. Yikes.

If you’re not seeing your go-to grocery store on the “clean” list, you may not need to panic. Here’s why: several major retailers—such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Aldi, Target, and Whole Foods—were noticeably absent from the list. But since Consumer Reports only asked survey members to report on the one or two stores where they most frequently shopped, these stores may not have had enough data to sufficiently rank.


Best Grocery Stores and Supermarkets

America’s grocery shoppers have spoken, and they’ve said they like their regional chains.

In Consumer Reports’ latest grocery store ratings of 96 chains, five regional grocers shared top marks for customer satisfaction. They are Texas-based Central Market mid-Atlantic brand Wegmans Heinen’s, located in Ohio and Chicagoland Southern California-based Gelson’s Markets and Market Basket (Northeast).

Trader Joe’s is the only national chain to earn our top overall satisfaction score.

Our findings on the 96 grocers—the most we’ve ever rated—are based on survey responses from more than 75,000 Consumer Reports members, who provided ratings of the one or two supermarkets they visit most often.

We asked members to judge supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and supercenters—mass merchandizers with on-premises groceries—on 13 grocery-store attributes, including cleanliness, price, food quality and variety, checkout speed and staff helpfulness, selection of healthy options and locally produced foods, and variety of international and multicultural foods.

We also rated online grocery delivery services, using a different combination of attributes than those used for brick-and-mortar grocers.


Is it OK to eat at the grocery store before buying?

The Texas-based chain Central Market, Wegmans (which is an East Coast favorite), the Ohio and Chicago-centered Heinen’s and the Southern California-based Gelson’s Markets all earned the highest scores from shoppers. Bigger name stores, like Whole Foods and Walmart, paled in comparison to many of the smaller chains with deep roots in local markets.

The full ratings from Consumer Reports were based on 13 key factors about overall shoppers' experiences including cleanliness, product prices, food quality, variety, checkout speed, staff helpfulness and fresh/healthy item availability.

Each of the top scoring regional stores and Trader Joe’s received the highest rating — green — for cleanliness.

Publix, which landed in spot No. 11, received the highest marks for cleanliness, too, while Costco, which sits at No. 10 on the list, received a slightly above average rating — light green. No single store received the top grade in all 13 categories.

Beyond the top scorers, the lowest ranking stores on the list may surprise some shoppers.


How to Make a Sparkling Impression

What does it take to make a grocery seem—and be—spotless? Executives for the Cleaning Services Group (CSG), a janitorial and building services contractor in Danvers, Mass., for hospitals, supermarkets, and other retailers, recently gave Consumer Reports its take on what qualities convince consumers that a supermarket is clean. They include:

• Spotless entries. Stores that value cleanliness put effort into keeping the sidewalks outside their venues free of coffee stains, cigarette butts, gum residue, and other signs of grit. "They regularly power wash their sidewalks, and once a week remove all the carts in front and clean there, too," says Rick Sturgis, CSG's chief marketing officer. "When you see papers everywhere in the vestibule, that makes a bad impression."

• Hand sanitizers. In the vestibule, in the poultry section, and in other germ-prone areas, the presence of these dispensers reflects concern for cleanliness, says Lauren Grant, CSG's vice president of business development. "You want those wipes for your cart handles," she notes. "I look for that when I walk in." 

(Consumer Reports says hand sanitizers that are at least 60 percent alcohol are appropriate when soap and water isn't available.)

• Gleaming floors. Polished concrete in its natural, light gray color is replacing floors colored tan and brown to look like distressed leather, says Dennis O'Brien, CSG's chief executive officer. "That was popular about 10 years ago," he says. "Eventually, the coloring started to come out, and it looked messy." 

Good retailers wash and buff their floors daily, O'Brien adds.   

• Restrooms. Walking through a smelly stockroom to reach a scary, dark, one-stall room is increasingly rare. In newer stores, you'll find restrooms by the entrance and also near the fresh-prepared food dining area. Newer designs have bright lighting, multiple stalls, air fresheners, and better accessibility—and never run out of toilet paper, Sturgis says. "They should be inspected several times an hour." 

• Quick spill cleanup. Porters responsible for spotting and mopping up messes should be roaming the store regularly, O'Brien says. Ideally, he adds, they'll have equipment with an extractor on it that sucks everything up right away and prevents stains from penetrating the floor finish.

"The ones at the top of your list, they have porters all day long," O'Brien notes. "That makes all the difference."

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.


The 5 Healthiest Grocery Stores in America are Surprising

Whole Foods may epitomize healthy eating, but you don't have to shop at the spendy retailer to eat well, according to a new survey. Regional grocery store chains earned the highest marks for offering good quality, well-priced, and locally sourced food options, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

More than 75,000 Consumer Reports members provided feedback on 96 grocery stores across the United States. Stores were evaluated on factors including price, service, quality, and variety, according to the outlet. These stores ranked highest for healthy food choices and quality produce:

  • Central Market (Texas)
  • Wegmans (Mid-Atlantic Region)
  • Heinen&rsquos (Ohio and the Chicago)
  • New Seasons Market (Oregon, Washington, and Northern California)
  • Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (Midwest, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania)
  • Natural Grocers (Colorado-based)

According to Eating Well, Wegmans stands out because it offers nutritional information on all-store prepared foods, which is not typical of most grocery stores. The chain also uses 16 different labels to showcase health benefits of products and whether an item fits dietary restrictions.

Many people surveyed, about 43 percent, purchased organic foods in the past month, despite the high cost. Consumer Reports found that organic foods prices is expensive at nearly all supermarkets. However, Aldi, Costco, and Trader Joe&rsquos received high rankings for affordable options.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director at consulting company Strategic Resource Group, explained that there are many factors keeping organic prices high, including transportation costs.

"Even if you have a great organic crop in Southern California, the price to get a truckload to Philadelphia is now $5,500, from $2,500 a few years ago," Flickinger told Consumer Reports.

Sure, this is just one survey, but it goes to show that you don't need to shop at niche natural markets or expensive organic shops to eat healthy. Need more ideas for eating well without spending a fortune? Check out our tips for making the most of your grocery budget.


Consumer Reports Rated the Healthiest Grocery Stores: They May Surprise You

The consumer site recently surveyed members to see which U.S. food retailers have the best and widest selection of healthy foods.

Most of us know it&aposs a whole lot easier to eat healthy when our fridge is stocked full of fresh food instead of half-eaten takeout boxes. More than half of grocery shoppers believe their favorite food retailer is "on their side" when it comes to helping them eat healthy, according to Consumer Reports-so the publication recently set out to discover which ones are the best at delivering the goods.

CR surveyed their members on 96 rated grocers for how well they go above and beyond in providing a variety of high-quality, decently-priced and locally sourced food options. Only six of these supermarkets, warehouse clubs and supercenters achieved top marks for their selection of healthy foods, and they&aposre not national chains like Trader Joe&aposs or Whole Foods. Instead, regional grocery store chains took the top spots. Here they are, listed below:

• Central Market in Texas
• Wegmans in the Mid-Atlantic Region
• Heinen&aposs in Ohio and the Chicago area
• New Seasons Market in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California
• Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in the Midwest, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania
• Natural Grocers in 19 states west of the Mississippi River

The first four retailers listed received superlative ratings for their selection of healthy foods, produce quality, produce variety and selection of locally sourced foods. Wegmans was a stand-out, with 16 different labels to help consumers identify a product&aposs health benefits or if it adheres to certain dietary restrictions. Wegmans also offers nutritional info on all store-made food items on their website-a perk not offered by many grocers.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed bought organic foods in the last month, and 25 percent valued good quality produce over organic produce and other food products. No grocer received the highest score for organics, but Trader Joe&aposs, Costco, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Natural Grocers, Aldi, Woodman&aposs and Grocery Outlet were honorable mentions here.

CR also noted 88 percent of those surveyed believe it is a grocery store&aposs responsibility to notify consumers of any foodborne illness outbreaks, but only 32 percent felt their grocery store did an adequate job.


Supermarkets That Gleam

"Cleanliness has a large impact on your overall opinion of your grocery store, our results show," says Jane Manweiler, a CR survey research associate.

In addition to those top six stores, 17 markets that placed high—but not tops—in our ratings nonetheless excelled for cleanliness. In ratings order, they are:

• New Seasons Market
• Publix
• Military Commissary
• The Fresh Market
• Festival Foods (Wi.)
• Dierbergs
• Lunds & Bylerlys
• Fresh Thyme Farmers Market
• Natural Grocers
• Reasor's
• Raley's
• Lowes Foods (NC, SC, VA)
• Hy-Vee
• Haggen Northwest Fresh
• Lidl
• Roche Bros.
• Brookshire's

Stores placing among the lowest overall in our ratings—including the national brand Walmart Supercenter and Eastern retailers Tops and Key Food—had disappointing orange chevrons for cleanliness, suggesting that CR members found them lacking on that count.

Ohio-based Marc's, a discount drugstore and grocery chain, also got an orange chevron for cleanliness—the second-to-lowest score. But it rated middling overall, perhaps due to its superior pricing. (In that category, the store received a dark green chevron, the highest available score.)

To arrive at these results (and more), CR researchers collected survey responses from more than 75,000 Consumer Reports members, who rated the one or two supermarkets they go to most often. In all, our members reported on more than 140,000 visits to grocers, which enabled CR to rate 96 groceries nationwide. 


According to Consumer Reports Publix is rated second best grocery store chain in America

Americans on average spend $5,400 a year at grocery stores and for that amount you should expect to receive your money’s worth.

Consumer Reports surveyed nearly sixty-three thousand of its readers to rate 68 supermarket chains for food quality and freshness, staff courtesy and store cleanliness.

“We asked about the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, store-prepared foods, and baked goods, as well as things like cleanliness, staff courtesy, and prices,” said Tod Marks of Consumer Reports.

About sixty percent of shoppers say they’re highly satisfied with the quality of their store’s poultry and meat. Even fewer, around half, are happy with their supermarket’s bakery and prepared food options.

The biggest grocery store chain in the country, Walmart Supercenter, scored near the bottom of the ratings. People gave Walmart low marks in all freshness categories.

“Walmart also didn’t do so well for its courteous staff and store cleanliness,” said Marks. “It did score better than many chains for its prices, but it wasn’t the best for price.”

Consumer Reports’ top-scoring supermarkets include a Florida-based regional grocery as well as national chains Trader Joe’s and Costco.

The top overall rated grocery is once again Wegmans, based in Rochester, New York. It has topped Consumer Reports ratings every year since 2005. It received the highest scores possible in every category.

For Tampa Bay-area shoppers, the magazine says the cleanest store that also has the freshest produce is Publix.

The Lakeland-headquartered grocer rated second behind Wegmans for the freshest produce and highest quality meats and poultry. It also rated second for cleanliness and in-store bakeries.

The Fresh Market and Whole Foods Market finished fifth and eight for fresh produce.

Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market and Whole Food Market also made the top ten cleanest list.

If you purchase organic foods, Consumer Reports rated Trader Joe’s to be the best with Costco third.

Here are the overall ratings for grocery stores chain with locations in the Tampa Bay area:

(2) Publix
(3) Trader Joe’s
(6) Costco
(9) The Fresh Market
(14) Aldi
(15) Whole Foods Market
(42) BJ’s Wholesale Club
(45) Target/SuperTarget
(47) Sam’s Club
(50) Albertsons
(55) Winn-Dixie
(67) Walmart Supercenter


The Best Grocery Stores All Have This One Thing in Common, According to a New Survey

A survey of more than 75,000 people ranked grocery stores on customer satisfaction, prices, and more&mdashand most of the best grocery stores had something major in common.

Picking the right grocery store can make or break your meals. The right grocery store trip ends with a satisfied shopper and bags full of fresh, tasty food the wrong one ends with sub-par food, a frustrating shopping experience, or even some wasted money. It all depends on the grocery store: Some are known for good customer service, while others are loved for their offerings, and still more are valued for their good prices some are known for poor customer service or too-high prices.

Wherever people grocery shop, they certainly have their favorites𠅊nd an extensive new survey from Consumer Reports sought to rank them all to determine customers’ most preferred grocery stores. The survey asked more than 75,000 Consumer Reports members about their grocery store preferences, and the final ranking pits 96 chain grocery stores against each other to determine the very best.

Regional grocery stores�ntral Market, Wegmans, Heinen’s, Gelson’s Markets, and Market Basket—were ranked most highly for customer satisfaction the only national grocery chain to earn Consumer Reports’ top overall satisfaction score was Trader Joe’s. (No wonder Trader Joe’s locations are popping up everywhere.) Only five grocery chains received what Consumer Reports calls disappointing overall scores: Walmart, Acme Markets, Shaw’s, Tops, and Key Foods.

The survey used customer rankings in categories such as price, customer service, store brand quality, breadth of goods, produce quality, and more. A high overall score across the categories put stores at the top of the full ranking a low one put them at the bottom.

One thing most of the best grocery stores had in common? They offered reasonable prices. Survey respondents said their top reason for shopping at a particular store was its low prices, and one of the most common reported reasons for no longer frequenting a certain grocery store was that its prices were too high. Still, some grocery chains with perceived high prices were still ranked favorably, mainly because they offered excellent selections or good shopping experiences. Whole Foods, for example, is notorious for its high prices—it received a mediocre score for overall customer satisfaction because of its prices, though it was ranked favorably in almost every other category.

According to the survey’s findings, people return to grocery stores because they have good prices𠅋ut they love them for a variety of reasons. Value the relatively low prices at your favorite grocery store, but know that the other features that make it great (the selection, the friendly employees, the cleanliness of the space) are worth noting, too. Going to the cheapest grocery store may not give you the shopping experience you𠆝 like, especially if the produce isn’t great. It’s all about balance, even with grocery stores.