Which Grocers Get High Customer Marks for Innovation?

American Innovation Index finds companies that engage in positive innovation are perceived as more attractive
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Trader Joe's came in first for grocery innovation in a new consumer-based survey.

Retailers that focus on private label products and sourcing from unique suppliers are scoring points with shoppers. According to the new American Innovation Index (AII), Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and ALDI are seen as the most innovative grocers by today's consumers.

Now in its sixth year, the AII is conducted and published by Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, Rockbridge Associates and the Norwegian School of Economics. This year’s study was conducted in July and August and covered 200 companies from 20 industries, including retail, travel, financial services, technology, communications and manufacturing.

[Read more: “Which Grocers Are Among America’s Best Employers for Women?”]

Trader Joe’s, known for its curated private label assortment and vibe of discovery, was first in the grocery category and the fourth most innovative company overall. “Trader Joe’s is extremely popular with consumers and has established itself as a brand known for creative snack combinations and regular new product drops, potentially aiding in how consumers view its innovation,” the researchers wrote.

Whole Foods came in second on the innovation ranking. Shoppers’ simultaneous interest in innovation and value is evident in the strong third-place showing from another grocer that makes its mark with store brand products, ALDI.  Rounding out the top 10 list of grocery retail banners viewed as innovative by consumers were Publix, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Albertsons, Safeway, Ahold and Rite Aid.

In addition to Trader Joe’s, two other retailers landed on the AII listing of the top 10 overall innovative firms. Amazon was No. 8 and Costco was No. 10.  

“What is unique about the AII is that it is the only survey in the U.S. which measures company innovativeness based upon customers’ experiences,” noted Barbara Porco, PhD, associate dean of graduate studies at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business, and managing director of the School’s Responsible Business Center. “This reminds us of the incredible importance that consumers play in driving innovation in the marketplace.”

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seattle-based Amazon, which is No. 2 on The PG 100. Batavia, Ill.-based  ALDI U.S. is No. 26.

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