Why Are Grocery Stores Regional? (and which are nationwide?)


If you’ve done any amount of traveling, you’ve probably noticed that you may not see the same grocery stores in other cities as you do at home. Knowing this made me wonder – why are grocery stores regional?

I decided to do some research, and this is what I found out:

Why Are Grocery Stores Regional? Competition, complicated multi-state legalities, and the infrastructure to properly supply stores tend to limit growth. For example, Publix is only in the south. Kroger is only in certain cities & states. HEB is only in Texas & Safeway, while once nationwide, is mostly west coast now.

But there is a lot more to know about whether grocery stores are regional. I’ll dig into more details on various regional and nationwide stores, and where they are located. 

Just keep reading to find out!

What are the top 10 grocery stores in the United States?

The best grocery stores carry similar themes.

They offer great value, have the best products, and strive to be essential to their communities. Yet, finding a store with all three can be challenging at best.

The ones that made the grade, and can be considered the best are listed below as per Food and Wine, in no particular order. Check if yours makes the cut.

  • Wegmans has been revered by fans for just being a really great grocery store. They have competitively-priced store brands, terrific sandwich shops, and surprisingly good sushi bars.
  • H-E-B is Texas’ most popular supermarket brand. They have beautifully designed stores, an abundance of fresh produce, and delicious prepared foods.
  • Lidl is a German budget supermarket chain and a competitor to Aldi. Both stores are minimally designed, with lots of reasonably priced, private label items. Both stores make grocery shopping a pleasant experience for folks of all budgets. 
  • Hy-Vee is an employee-owned supermarket in Des Moines. They have many popular homestyle prepared meals, offer flexible time off to employees, and match customer donations to local food banks.
  • New Seasons in Portland offers high-quality organic products. Employees love working there and are seen as a bit of a gathering place for community members. Grocery stores want customers to gather. The longer customers are there, the more they tend to spend.
  • Also on the list are Costco, Winco Foods, Publix, Market Basket, and Trader Joe’s.

Those picks were based on a wide variety of areas.

But if you want to know what grocery stores have the best steaks, you should definitely read this recent article. Just click on the link to view it on my website. 

You might be surprised to find that Whole Foods Market is one of the best places to buy steak. Not only are their steaks delicious, but they have over a hundred animal welfare standards, ensuring that all meat sold in its stores is humanely raised and slaughtered.

Just click the link to read it on my site!

Why is HEB only in Texas?

H-E-B started more than 100 years ago as a small, family-owned store in Kerrville, Texas.

Today, they have more than 340 stores and over 100,000 employees. In fact, they are one of the largest food chains in the US, And even so, they only have stores in Texas and Mexico.

And HEB shoppers LOVE HEB. They love it so much, people have had maternity photos and engagement photos taken at the store.

HEB also goes out of its way to support Texas charities, like local food banks and the Special Olympics. They also promote Texas-made products in their stores.

HEB is still a family-owned business. 

Now HEB easily has the resources, infrastructure, and ability to go nationwide. But at the end of the day, that’s more work than just operating in Texas. And after all, HEB loves Texas, and Texas loves HEB.

If you are not fortunate enough to live in Texas, you may be wondering where to go to purchase the best chicken.

Just head over to this recent article to read about what stores have the best chicken.

For ingredient and additive quality standards, and animal welfare policies, no grocery chain beats Whole Foods market. No antibiotics are ever administered in the life of the chicken.

Just click the link to read more on my site.

Is there any grocery chain in all 50 states?

No is the short answer.

There are almost 40,000 grocery stores in the United States. Many of these grocery stores are regional, some services just a single state, like HEB in Texas.

But there are others that operate nationwide.

The largest grocery chain, by far, is Walmart, although you could make the argument that they are a department store that also happens to sell food. But as large as Walmart is, they do not operate in Hawaii, so they are only in 49 of the 50 states.

Kroger Company is the second-largest grocery chain. Kroger Company operates not just Kroger, but other grocery store brands like Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, and Ralphs. But it’s interesting that Kroger isn’t in most cities.

For example, Kroger was all over Dallas when I lived there but they have no stores in Austin, just 200 miles away.

But stores like Walmart and Target are really considered supermarkets rather than grocery stores. While the terms are often used interchangeably, grocery stores are much smaller and more specialized than supermarkets.

Supermarkets are larger in scale and carry a much wider selection of items. They have many more departments than a grocery store. Typically they will have an in-house butcher, floral department, or even a pharmacy. 

Grocery stores can also be a lot more personal than supermarkets. Whole Foods is a supermarket but has a grocery store feel. They sell mostly natural, organic foods in a pleasant environment.

To read more about the differences between grocery stores and supermarkets, just read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What states are Krogers in?

With more than 3,500 stores nationwide, Kroger Company is the second-largest retailer after Walmart. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Kroger stores are predominant in the Midwestern and Southern United States.

You would think with this many stores, that they’d be in every state, but as it turns out, they are only in 35 states. The majority of their stores are in California.

If you want to see if there is a Kroger in your state, head over to the Kroger Company Website.

But here’s a quick glance at those 35 states:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Is Safeway only in California?

Safeway was founded in American Falls, Idaho, by Marion Barton Skaggs. It was purchased by Albertsons in 2015.

In the 1920s, Safeway began acquiring smaller regional stores. Acquisitions included Piggly Wiggly, Daniel Reeves, and Thriftway Stores.

They also expanded internationally, opening stores in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, among others.

In 1929, Safeway moved its headquarters to Oakland, California. It remained headquartered there until 1996, when it moved to Pleasanton, California.

In the 1980s, Safeway began selling off stores.

I recall shopping in them in Austin when I was a kid. Then the store changed names to Budget (I think). Budget gave the impression of being employee-owned. That didn’t last long and at least in my town, the stores were sold to Randall’s out of Houston.

Ironically Randall’s was bought back by Safeway in 1999.

By 1989, their presence was reduced to several western states and Northern California, plus the Washington, DC area.

In 2015, Albertsons purchased Safeway. Since that time, a few stores in Florida, Denver, and Seattle have been rebranded as Safeway. But all grocery chain names combined, Albertson’s operates in 34 states plus Washington DC.

So, while there are a few Safeway stores outside of California, most of them are in California.

But since Albertson’s bought Safeway in 2015, their labels have grown to include all of the following grocery store brand names: (source)

  • Albertsons
  • Safeway
  • Vons
  • Jewel-Osco
  • Shaw’s
  • Acme
  • Tom Thumb
  • Randalls
  • United Supermarkets
  • Pavilions
  • Star Market
  • Haggen and Carrs

How many Publix stores are there in the US?

They are one of the largest US regional grocery chains and have more than 1,200 stores. They have their own manufacturing facilities where they produce their dairy, deli, bakery, and other private label food products.

Publix is the largest employee-owned company in the US. Headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, Publix operates throughout the Southeastern United States.

Like Whole Foods Market, Publix has a pretty large fan following.

Publix has been on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work for on multiple occasions. In fact, they are one of only eight companies that have been on the list since its inception in 1998.

The first Publix to open outside of Florida was in Savannah, Georgia, in 1991. Since then, they have expanded to South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about why grocery stores are regional?

With 40,000 grocery chains across the United States, it’s not surprising only a few of them are nationwide.

Great grocery stores, like HEB in Texas, are loved by fans and want you to hang out for a while. Impersonal supermarkets like Walmart and Target have stores in just about every state.

Safeway used to be nationwide, but are now primarily on the West Coast, while Publix is regional to the southeast.

What is your favorite grocery store?

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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