Supermarket Week

Talking supermarkets with an industry analyst


Nope. / photo: Flickr user christine592 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

To cap off Supermarket Week, we thought it'd be interesting to get an outside view of the supermarket scene and why some chains do or don't end locating in metro areas. (Maybe there's a certain chain that springs to mind...)

So we got in touch David Livingston of DJL Research, a supermarket industry analyst, to talk a little bit about the scene.

Here are a few quick bits from the conversation -- about Price Chopper, Wegmans, and why some of the sought-after chains expand slowly...

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Supermarket Showdown 2016

grocery list written in marker

New list, new stores.

It's back: Supermarket Showdown, in which check prices for a basket of 40 items across multiple supermarkets here in the Capital Region.

The showdown has taken a few years off -- the last time we did it was in 2012 -- and this year it returns with a new basket and three new stores.

Without further ado, let's get to it...

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Giving ALDI a try

ALDI Deanna shopping cart contents

The haul from Deanna's ALDI trip.

By Deanna Fox

I find that I am often a bit naive about how Americans truly eat at home, regardless of the fact that I make a living from writing about food. I eat out a lot and I when I cook at home, it either leans towards the clean, healthy side (to counteract all the eating out) or it turns into a production somehow related to a story.

That's not to say I live in a vacuum, but I realize that sometimes my grasp of what the typical grocery run looks like it a bit slippery.

Lately, I've noticed plenty of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues talking about ALDI, the low-priced chain of grocery stores with European roots that's rapidly expanding. (According to the US ALDI website, the supermarket will have 2,000 US-based stores by 2018.)

I remember shopping at LDI with my Aunt Laura and her kids growing up. It was the first stop on the bi-weekly shopping trip, followed by Tops, Grand Union, and Price Chopper if absolutely necessary. The generic-looking packaging under ALDI private labels, the fact that you had to bring your own bags, and the way the entire system worked always gave me the impression that ALDI was low-quality.

Now, some of my favorite food enthusiasts shop there... and they won't settle for subpar. So there's got to be something worth checking out.

So I did.

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Recalling the grocery stores of Albany's past

Empire Food Market Albany Lyon Block storefront

The Empire Food Market -- "Albany's Premier Food Center" -- in the old Lyon Block building in downtown Albany. (The building was knocked down during the Empire State Plaza construction.) / via the Albany Public Library History Collection

By Carl Johnson

The trick of time is that it passes slowly, and changes are incremental, so you can hardly notice it happening. The world of today looks mostly like the world of yesterday to us, and yet there have been a thousand little changes over the years that separate those worlds. When things change all at once, it seems a revolution, but when they change little by little, it just seems the passing of time.

Grocery stores are one example. Sure, 50 years ago, they were selling milk and meats, frozen foods and Cap'n Crunch, just as they are today. And yet everything about them has changed.

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Wegmans? Really? Please explain.


The object of so much desire.

By AOA Greg

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

If there's one constant in the Capital Region supermarket discussion, it's that people desire a Wegmans. Actually, desire might not be a strong enough word -- crave/swoon over/confront an existential crisis in the absence of/long for a Wegmans.

And I don't really get it. Because last I checked, Wegmans is still... a supermarket.

Sure, Wegmans routinely tops the Consumer Reports rankings of best supermarkets. And I've shopped there more than a few times -- they're nice stores. Worthy of adoration, though? I'm skeptical.

But, OK, I'm open to the idea. So I got connected with editor, savvy shopper and skeptical consumer Laura Northrup. She lives in the Capital Region now, but she grew up in the Syracuse area where her family shopped -- and dined! -- at Wegmans. I know she has an appreciation for the place.

Maybe Laura could explain.

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Feeding the soul, at the supermarket

siobhan connally supermarket cart in aisle

Not advertised in the circular: wisdom.

By Siobhan Connally

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Isn't it strange how life-affirming events almost always happen in the most mundane of all places, or, more specifically, during the pursuit of the bland?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's not like revelation waits for those RARE moments when you're all gussied up, coiffed and powered, and sets a place card for you at the table.

Nope. Revelation, for me, happens a few steps before putting fork to plate -- usually at the supermarket.

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Supermarket Showdown V

shoprite albany exterior

Game changer?

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Yes, that grand tradition -- the Supermarket Showdown -- has returned. As we have for the past (gulp) four years, we price checked a basket of items across the local supermarket chains.

New this year: ShopRite.

Can it unseat Walmart, the four-time defending champ? And how have the other two players reacted to its arrival?

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When will Trader Joe's open?

trader joes wolf road exterior 2012-05-30

The exterior, as of this week.

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Update: The contest is now closed, but you'd still like to guess, go for it. Your guess just won't be part of the contest.

We don't know when the Trader Joe's on Wolf Road will open. If we did, we'd tell you.

So, let's have some fun. In the comments, guess the date you think the store will open. If you're correct, we'll give you a $25 gift card to TJ's. (please see details below)

We stopped by the store's location this week and peeked in the windows. The floor is now in, as are some of the shelving units (photo post jump). The company has said it plans to open the store during the second quarter of 2012 -- though things might have been slowed by a permit snag (now resolved).

Important: All comments must be submitted by noon on Thursday (May 31, 2012) to be considered. One entry per person. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment (seriously, we want to give you gift card if you win). Please include the month and day you think the store will open. We will consider that all dates are for 2012 unless specifically mentioned otherwise. "Opening day" will be the first day the store is open for shopping to the general public as stated by the company. (If an opening date is announced before the entry deadline May 31 at noon -- the game's over and there will be no winner.) If multiple people pick the date correctly, a winner will be picked at random from the correct entries. The winner will be notified via email and must respond within 24 hours of being notified.

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Annoyed in aisle 5

price chopper international aisle

This aisle may look empty. But once Wendy enters it -- or any other supermarket aisle -- someone will show up to block her from the borscht. (It's physics. Or something.)

By Wendy Voelker

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

I love grocery shopping.

I love wandering the aisles, smelling fragrant greens, deciphering nutrition labels, discovering new and exciting products, imagining possibilities for weeknight dinners, finding great coupon deals, keeping track of prices in my grocery list app.

What I don't love about grocery shopping is that there are other people involved in my experience. People just get in my way and ruin everything.

Sometimes, one of those people is me.

Not often, but sometimes.

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Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U


ShopRite doesn't hold back on the bagging.

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Supermarket Week is back on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

I've been hearing a lot lately about home grocery delivery. The new Albany ShopRite offers home delivery, and the Westgate Price Chopper recently rolled out a similar service (and made sure we knew about it -- we received Price Chopper flyers advertising the service in the mail every day for weeks).

I've been intrigued by the idea. After my daughter was born last year many things changed within our family, including my work schedule and our income. I usually do each week's shopping on my Mondays off, with my one-year-old in tow. Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes it means rushing through the store doing everything I can to stave off a toddler meltdown ("Here, hold this bag of beans. No no, don't eat the bag. Ok, now we have to give it to the lady to scan. She'll give it back! I promise!") And then there's the part where I do a circus routine to get the baby and the groceries in the house.

The idea of having someone else do the shopping -- and deliver the goods to my door -- is very appealing. So recently I gave each service a go.

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An ode to Aldi

Aldi exterior.jpg

Think of it as your ghetto Trader Joe's.

By Albany Jane

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

Oh Aldi, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Aldi is one of the Capitol Region's discount grocery chains. The store has locations throughout the globe, and has owners in common with Trader Joe's. There are some similarities between the two.

Think of Aldi as your ghetto Trader Joe's.

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On being an opportunistic shopper

walmart entrance

Daniel couldn't shop at Walmart... right?

By Daniel B.

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat. Today, Daniel B on his own fussy supermarket circuit.

"The best grocery store" is a mythical creature. It simply does not exist. And it doesn't matter if you are in Albany, Austin, Berkeley or Manhattan.

So forget about the best for a moment. The sad reality is that we don't really even have a great grocery store in the region. Choosing between our available options is like splitting hairs. But even if we had a Wegmans, a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's within an hour's drive of Albany, it would still pay to shop around.

If you really want to know how to save money on your groceries, while eating healthfully and sustainably, the answers aren't found in the price of a common basket of goods shopped against the leading area markets. The answer lies in knowing where to buy your staples, and then shopping opportunistically.

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Shopping Target's new fresh-food offerings

target overview

It's like Target, only ... more.

By Akum Norder

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

Time was, if you were stuck having to pick up something for dinner at Target, that meant grabbing some bread and some mediocre cold cuts, or maybe chicken strips and frozen veggies.

Things have changed a bit over at the Colonie Target.

Changed how?

Changed like green curry with shrimp and sugar snap peas over jasmine rice, plus a green salad with cranberries, balsamic almonds and fresh tangerine slices.

That's what I made for dinner after going to Target earlier this week.

Target's food offerings have expanded. At the end of March, the Targets in Colonie and Wilton opened what they call "PFresh departments," an expanded grocery section with produce, meat and baked goods. Targets in Latham and East Greenbush will get PFresh departments this summer.

I went over to the Northway Mall Target to check it out.

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Six things to check out at the Asian Supermarket

Asian Supermarket exterior

The Asian Supermarket -- not to be confused with the Asian Market.

By Albany Jane

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

For years I've been shopping at the Asian Food Market on Colvin Ave in Albany, but in the last year, the Asian Supermarket -- the newbie Asian market in the Capital Region -- has become a part of my regular rotation.

The Asian Supermarket is similar to the Asian markets you'd see in major metro areas -- bright lights, clean floors, tall shelves, and a ton of selection. It's one-stop shopping for all of your Asian grocery needs.

I find myself there at least once a week. Here are a few of the reasons why...

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Greulich's Market

Greulichs Composite

By Liz Clancy Lerner

It's Supermarket Week -- all this week AOA will have posts about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.

If you want to understand how Greulich's, an independent market, has made it since 1953 at its current location in Guilderland -- start with the people:

+ Edna Greulich, now 84, opened the market with her husband Arthur -- and is still at the store on a daily basis.

+ Eddie Lysiak, a butcher, recently received a thank you note and package of chocolate drumsticks from a customer thanking him for serving her family for 50 years.

+ And manager Robert Van Allen takes only three days off a year.

Greulich's can't offer gas cards or the absolute lowest prices on most items, so they offer service. And after six decades in business, it's still working for them.

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Supermarket Showdown IV

jif jar still 18 oz

As the "stealth downsizing" of products continues to cover up price increases, brands are starting to point out when they haven't changed sizes.

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of stuff about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.

AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the three-time defending champ.

Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?

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