Value of the benefit: Survey lists commissaries among best grocery stores

by Kevin L. Robinson
DeCA Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. – Commissary patrons know the value of their benefit so much so that those who participated in a recent magazine survey rated commissaries among the best grocery stores in the U.S.

In the April 16 edition of Consumer Reports, the Defense Commissary Agency’s stores were ranked 12th out of 96 grocery chains rated in a readership survey, a result that confirms the value of the benefit, said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DOD special assistant for commissary operations.

“It’s no secret among our patrons that their commissaries deliver a valuable benefit, especially when it comes to product pricing,” Bianchi said. “I’m quite proud of the DeCA team for achieving these results.”

DeCA received a score of 86, the same score received by Publix, Costco, Crest, Fareway Stores, and New Seasons Market. The top scores went to Central Market (Texas) with a 91 and Wegmans at 90. Heinen’s (Ohio and Chicago) scored 89, and Gelson’s (Southern California), Trader Joes and Market Basket (Northeast) were rated at 87.

Commissaries received stellar marks for competitiveness of prices, store cleanliness and variety of international products. They were also noted for checkout speed, meat and poultry quality and store brand quality. 

In Consumer Reports’ summary description of its top grocery retailers they applauded commissaries for offering “competitive prices for the astounding 38,000 items they sell. Prices here are generally good year-round.”

More than 75,000 readers responded to the Consumer Reports survey, which included their average scoring on stores’ cleanliness, competitiveness of pricing, fresh-store prepared foods, staff courtesy, checkout speed, produce quality and variety, meats/poultry quality, store brand quality, selection of healthy options, prices of organic options, selection of locally produced products, and available variety of international and multicultural products.

Bianchi said the survey validates DeCA’s core mission of offering an average of nearly 24 percent savings compared to commercial stores. He also highlighted the following initiatives commissaries are rolling out to ensure the commissary benefit is relevant for its patrons now and in the future:

  • Commissary store brands – more than 700 items that offer national brand quality at private label prices
  • Your Everyday Savings! – a program that offers consistent, year-round savings on the items customers buy the most
  • CLICK2GO – the ongoing deployment of the commissary’s new online ordering, curbside pickup program
  • Health and wellness – DeCA’s Nutrition Guide Program, an initiative designed in collaboration with dietitians throughout the Department of Defense, identifying nutritious foods with color-coded shelf tags and a thumbs-up icon that indicates high nutrition quality and high performance food
  • Meal solutions – meal kits that offer more prepared food options
  • Emerging technologies – the ongoing roll out of DeCA’s new business system is offering state-of-the art options for digital coupons and will eventually offer electronic receipts and scan-pay-and-go mobile shopping

“Although we enjoy the publicity from this survey, we are not standing still on our merits,” Bianchi said. “Commissaries will continue to improve and evolve so that they can deliver the best possible benefit for our patrons. That’s why we exist.”

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