15 Largest Food Retailers In The World

By Chris Kolmar - Feb. 25, 2021

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Walmart is by far the largest and most well-known food retailer in the world, consuming over a fourth of the entire grocery industry’s annual sales.

However, the industry has a surprisingly high number of other major players that not only survive against Walmart but thrive due to their clever business models or the specific niches they occupy.

In this article, we’ll discuss the 15 largest food retailers in the world and their business models.

These 15 largest food retail companies are:

  1. Walmart

    Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas
    Stock Ticker: WMT
    Market Cap: $408.44 billion
    Revenue: $523.96 billion
    Net Income: $14.88 billion

    Walmart is the world’s largest food and general merchandise retailer, with over 11,500 stores across 27 countries. These are mostly hypermarkets that house not only groceries, but also pet shops, pharmacies, and cellular phone stores.

    The company also operates:

    • Discount stores. Walmart operates general merchandise discount stores that are smaller than their typical hypermarkets and offer a more limited range of products.

      374 of these currently exist, as of early 2021.

    • Neighborhood markets. Walmart neighborhood markets are typically a fifth of the size of their normal hypermarkets and focus on the three sales categories of groceries, pharmacy, and fuel.

    Walmart generates more revenue and employs more workers than any other private company on the planet, staffing over 2.2 million workers.

    They also own major subsidiary brands such as Sam’s Club, a chain of grocery and general merchandise stores.

  2. Costco Wholesale Corporation

    Headquarters: Issaquah, Washington
    Stock Ticker: COST
    Market Cap: $157.32 billion
    Revenue: $152.7 billion
    Net Income: $3.66 billion

    Costco is the second-largest food retailer after Walmart, and the world’s largest retailer of specific products such as organic food, rotisserie chicken, and prime beef.

    The company manages and operates a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs that sell groceries, frozen goods, clothing, and electronics.

    Costco’s business model focuses on lowering costs to offer competitive product pricing to consumers.

    A few major strategies the company employs towards this end include:

    • Bulk purchasing and lower variety of inventory. Costco carries only 2,700 different products, in comparison to its main competitor Walmart’s 140,000.

      This lowers labor costs associated with organizing and stocking items on shelves. Costco is also able to buy inventory in greater bulk, lowering supply costs.

    • Food court. Most Costco locations host a food court and seating area. These offer a low-priced menu that serves as a loss leader, attracting customers and encouraging them to stay within the store.

    • Membership benefits. Costco offers many benefits to its members that incentivize greater sales, such as cashback and other rewards.

    As of early 2021, there are 795 Costco locations across the world. Nearly 600 of these are in the United States, with the remaining spread across mostly Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

    It also owns a single location in both China and New Zealand.

    Costco is currently looking to expand aggressively in China and tap into the country’s massive customer base.

  3. 7-Eleven Holdings

    Headquarters: Dallas, Texas
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: $34.231 billion
    Revenue: $62.6 billion
    Net Income: $678 million

    7-Eleven is a multinational chain of convenience stores that operates, licenses, and franchises a total of 71,000 locations across 17 countries.

    In the United States, 7-Eleven typically doesn’t sell any groceries. Their primary products are snacks, soft drinks, and deli items such as sandwiches and salads.

    Other popular items sold at 7-Eleven include coffee and Slurpees, a partially-frozen sugary drink.

    In Asian countries, however, 7-Eleven stores are often much more expansive and offer a greater variety of food items.

    Japanese locations have full grocery aisles, packed with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. They also often sell pre-cooked and fully prepared meals for purchase.

  4. Kroger

    Headquarters: Cincinnati, Ohio
    Stock Ticker: KR
    Market Cap: $25.24 billion
    Revenue: $121.6 billion
    Net Income: $3.11 billion

    Kroger is the fifth-largest grocery supermarket in the United States and the second-largest general merchandise retailer.

    As of early 2021, the company owns and operates a collection of 2,750 multi-department stores and supermarkets.

    It also produces much of its inventory through its 35 food processing facilities located mainly across the Southern and Midwestern United States. These include 18 dairy plants, ten bakeries, and seven grocery plants.

    Approximately 30% of Kroger’s food products are produced under their brand names. Some major examples include:

    • Private Selection. Private Selection offers gourmet and regional foods that are pricier and marketed as being more upscale than Kroger’s standard brand products.

    • Simple Truth. Simple Truth is the retailer’s flagship organic and natural brand. It was founded in 2012 and is now one of its fastest-growing and best-selling segments.

      Simple Truth was also Kroger’s first offering in the Chinese market and can be purchased through Alibaba.

      The brand accounted for over $3.4 billion in sales in 2020 alone.

    • Murray’s Cheese. Murray’s Cheese is an artisanal and specialty cheese shop that can be found at hundreds of Kroger locations nationwide.

    Kroger employs most of its 435,000 employees through collective bargaining agreements with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

  5. Lidl

    Headquarters: Neckarsulm, Germany
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: N/A
    Revenue: $108.2 billion
    Net Income: $1.55 billion

    Lidl is a multinational chain of discount supermarket stores that operates across Europe and the United States.

    The vast majority of these 12,000 stores are located in the European Union. There are currently only 103 stores in the United States.

    The company’s business model follows a “pass-the-savings-to-the-consumers” strategy, minimizing all possible operational and labor costs so that their stores may offer drastically lower prices than their competitors.

    A few major examples of these cost-cutting methods include minimizing waste, employing minimal staff, and displaying most products in their original packaging.

    This strategy is similar to that of Aldis, another supermarket chain that is also Lidl’s leading competitor.

    Another unique aspect of Lidl stores is their “special weekly offers” section, which constantly updates a weekly selection of especially low-priced food items.

    Lidl is currently pursuing a major initiative in 2021 to open an additional 50 stores in the United States by the end of the year.

    The company is owned by the Schwarz Group, a family-owned corporation that also owns the major supermarket chain Kaufland.

  6. Aldi

    Headquarters: Essen, Germany (Aldi Nord) & Mulheim, Germany (Aldi Sud)
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: N/A
    Revenue: $91.9 billion
    Net Income: $968 million

    Aldi is another multinational chain of discount supermarkets that follows a super business model as that of Lidl, its main competitor.

    Like Lidl, Aldi minimizes overhead and labor costs through cost-cutting measures such as selling products in their original packaging and allowing customers to pick items straight out from their cartons.

    The store then passes these savings onto the customer through extremely low prices that make them a more affordable alternative over competing retailers.

    A few ways that Aldi’s business model and offerings differ from Lidl include:

    • Branding. Aldis offers fewer branded products than Lidl.

    • Advertising. Aldi advertises across Europe, while Lidl mainly focuses on Germany.

    • Inventory sourcing. Aldi sources inventory from many countries.

      In contrast, Lidl produces almost all inventory of any given item in a single European Union country and then distributes it across their entire worldwide chain.

    There are currently over 10,000 Aldi stores across 20 countries worldwide. In the United States, 2,000 locations employ a total of 25,000 workers.

  7. Carrefour

    Headquarters: Boulogne-Billancourt, France
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: $13.8 billion
    Revenue: $97.27 billion
    Net Income: $1.58 billion

    Carrefour is a chain of hypermarkets, supermarkets, and department stores that offer groceries and general merchandise.

    As of early 2021, there are currently 12,225 locations spread primarily across Europe and Asia. There are also locations in North Africa and the Middle East.

    The majority of the stores within Europe are convenience stores and smaller supermarkets, while those located in China are mostly hypermarkets.

    Carrefour is currently pursuing a major initiative called “Carrefour 2022.” The company seeks to hit its targets in developing many new organic products and limiting food waste by the year 2022.

    During the covid-19 pandemic, Carrefour was the first retailer in France to join C’est qui le Patron, an initiative for companies to share a portion of their profits with workers and direct victims impacted by the virus.

  8. AEON

    Headquarters: Chiba, Japan
    Stock Ticker: TYO: 8267
    Market Cap: $7.82 billion
    Revenue: ¥8,225,874 million
    Net Income: ¥52,707 million

    AEON, formerly known as JUSCO, is a chain of grocery and general merchandise retail stores located in Japan and the Greater China region.

    There are currently 300 stores located in Japan, mostly operating within shopping malls.

    The store is not to be confused with its parent company ÆON, which operates a much greater number of unrelated stores, such as electronics and footwear retailers.

  9. Tesco

    Headquarters: England, United Kingdom
    Stock Ticker: TSCO
    Market Cap: $32.35 billion
    Revenue: $75.91 billion
    Net Income: $1.59 billion

    Tesco is a general merchandise and grocery retailer with stores primarily operating in Europe.

    There are Tescos located in five European countries, as well as 11 additional countries worldwide. The company is the market leader of the United Kingdom’s grocery industry, possessing a market share of 28.4%.

    Tesco used to also operate in the United States, but pulled out due to declining sales in 2013.

    The company is the ninth-highest revenue-generating retailer in the world and the third-highest by gross revenue.

    Tesco’s main business strategy is to occupy the niche of being a high-volume low-cost retailer. They source their inventory in great bulk at low cost and then pass those savings onto consumers.

    By offering affordable prices, Tescos can attract customers from a wide range of socioeconomic groups and outcompete other retailers.

    The company’s two most popular brands are its affordable “Tesco Value” label and its more premium “Tesco Finest” items.

    Tesco recently acquired the food wholesaler company Booker Group in 2018 and also owns other grocery brands such as Budgens and Londis.

  10. Target

    Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Stock Ticker: TGT
    Market Cap: $94.58 billion
    Revenue: $75.36 billion
    Net Income: $2.987 billion

    Target is the eighth-largest retailer in the United States, owning and operating 1844 stores throughout the country.

    The company’s main retail formats include their hypermarkets, small-format stores, and discount stores.

    Most Targets sell groceries, although only in small quantities and varieties.

    Ex-Target chief executive Gregg Steinhafel once described Target’s operations as the complete opposite of its main competitor, Walmart. He opined that while Walmart was mainly “a grocer that happens to sell general merchandise,” Target is instead a “general merchandiser that happens to sell groceries.”

    However, Target does plan to expand the selection of groceries its stores offer. Most newer stores the company opens follow the “PFresh” format, a store design that possesses a 1,500 square foot grocery section.

    Most of Target’s hypermarkets constructed after 2009 also have PFresh sections, as well as food courts.

  11. Albertsons

    Headquarters: Boise, Idaho
    Stock Ticker: ACI
    Market Cap: $7.88 billion
    Revenue: $62.455 billion
    Net Income: $466.4 million

    With over 270,000 employees and 2,253 stores, Albertsons is the second-largest chain of supermarkets in the United States after Kroger.

    Before the company’s merger with Safeway Inc. in 2015, it only had 1,075 supermarkets that all operated under 12 different names.

    Albertsons supermarkets mainly offer groceries, but also often sell items such as home and wellness products and home decor.

    Some of their main brands include:

    • O Organics. Organic products.

    • Signature Select. Albertsons’ main line of grocery goods.

    • Primo Taglio. Deli meats and cheese.

    • Signature Reserve. Albertsons’ premium alternatives to Signature Select products.

    • waterfrontBISTRO. Mostly frozen seafood offerings.

    Almost all Albertsons stores feature a deli, bakery, produce department, and seafood counter. Newer stores also typically offer salad bars, pizza corners, and juice bars.

  12. Publix

    Headquarters: Lakeland, Florida
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: $14.669 billion
    Revenue: $38.1 billion
    Net Income: $3.001 billion

    Publix is a private, employee-owned supermarket chain that operates mainly throughout the Southeastern United States.

    The company employs 193,000 workers across 1,252 locations, 813 of which are in Florida. The westernmost store is in Mobile, Alabama.

    The vast majority of products sold at Publix stores are groceries, although they do sometimes sell other items such as gift cards and flowers.

    Each store also typically comes with a deli, seafood, and bakery section. The company has its brand of submarine sandwiches called “Pub subs.”

    Publix also owns an organic and natural produce brand called GreenWise Market. The company initially suspended the concept in 2008 but starting in 2018 started building more standalone locations to compete with similar stores such as Whole Foods.

    Publix enjoys a considerable amount of customer goodwill due to its reputation for treating employees fairly. The company has never had a layoff since its founding in 1930, and is ranked #39 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

  13. H.E. Butt Grocery

    Headquarters: Anderson, California
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: $20 billion
    Revenue: $21 billion
    Net Income: N/A

    H.E. Butt, also known as H-E-B, is a privately-owned chain of grocery supermarkets that operates 340 locations throughout Texas and northeast Mexico.

    The company is the largest private employer in the state of Texas and the 20th largest retailer by revenue in the United States.

    H-E-B produces many store-branded products with milk, bread, and other food manufacturing plants located across the Southwest.

    Their stores also offer many other private-label items, popular examples of which include H-E-B Mootopia and Central Market Organics.

    H-E-B is currently investing heavily into developing smartphone apps and self-checkout kiosks to replace their existing cashier stations.

    Many commend the company’s commitment to donate 5% of each year’s pre-tax profits to charity, a practice they’ve stuck to since the 1960s.

  14. Whole Foods

    Headquarters: British Columbia, Canada
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: N/A
    Revenue: $17.19 billion
    Net Income: $245 million

    Whole Foods is a multinational chain of supermarkets that operates 500 stores across North America and seven in the United Kingdom.

    The company’s USDA-certified grocery-stores specialize in offering organic and natural foods that are completely free from artificial colors, preservatives, and hydrogenated fats.

    Another unique aspect of Whole Foods locations is their in-store rating system, developed to allow customers full-transparency over the source, sustainability, and health benefits of their products.

    Each store department has its rating system. For example, Whole Foods’ seafood departments use a sustainability rating system that grades fish based on whether they were sourced from farms or wild-caught.

    These rating systems are all rated following third-party auditors.

    Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017.

  15. Hy-vee Inc.

    Headquarters: West Des Moines, Iowa
    Stock Ticker: N/A
    Market Cap: N/A
    Revenue: $10 billion
    Net Income: N/A

    Hy-vee is a private, employee-owned chain of supermarkets operating primarily in the Midwestern United States.

    The company was founded in Beaconsfield, Iowa in 1930 and has since expanded into 245 locations.

    Each store comes stocked with a bakery, delicatessen, and dine-in and carryout food service section. Newer Hy-vees are often built with HealthMarkets that offer organic and natural products, as well as Starbucks or Caribou Coffee coffee kiosks.

    Another newer practice of the company has been to move each store’s various departments into their separate buildings to optimize customer service.

    A few of Hy-vee’s major subsidiaries include:

    • Lomar Distributing. A Des Moines-based specialty food distributor.

    • Perishable Distributors of Iowa. A producer and distributor of seafood, meat, and dairy items.

    • D&D Foods. One of Hy-vee’s main internal suppliers of salads, dips, and entree items.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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