Traveling across the United States, you can find diversity in the landscape, in the food, in the way people talk.
And in the supermarkets.
To be precise, you can find a remarkably diverse array of regional supermarkets, their geographic boundaries weird and firm, even though their contents – from cereals to soups – remain largely the same. The above maps, by Nathan Yau at Flowing Data, show the peculiar geography of American supermarket chains.
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According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund [PDF], the country’s top ten supermarket conglomerates accounted for only 35 percent of grocery stores and 68 percent of grocery store sales. (That discrepancy is due in large part to Walmart, which sells a lot of groceries in relatively few locations.)
But that statistic doesn’t do justice to the on-the-ground diversity of America's supermarkets, because the “top ten” actually comprises nearly 30 different brands. Familiar names like Target, Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s aren’t even included in those.
So when Kroger, the nation’s second-largest supermarket company, announced Tuesday that it would purchase Harris Teeter, an upscale brand whose footprint stretches from the Carolinas to D.C., you might have wondered: why didn’t all this happen 70 years ago? Why isn’t the American grocery shopping experience as standardized as the American drugstore visit, or the American coffee stop?