Trader Joe’s is the most innovative grocery chain, according to a new study. / Photo: Shutterstock
Trader Joe’s, known for its swift cadence of new products and novel flavors, is the country’s most innovative grocery retailer, according to the sixth-annual American Innovation Index (Aii), which was released Thursday.
The index is based upon consumer perceptions, from research conducted by Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, Rockbridge Associates and the Norwegian School of Economics.
Monrovia, California-based Trader Joe’s came out not only as the most innovative grocer, but also the fourth-most innovative company nationwide, behind Toyota, Apple and Louis Vuitton.
“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,” researchers said in a statement. “The Aii’s research has found that companies that engage in positive innovation are perceived as more attractive and rewarded with greater loyalty from their customers.”
Trader Joe’s came in far ahead of other food retailers in terms of innovation, when compared to all other companies surveyed. Amazon, which does much more than sell food, ranked No. 8. And Costco rounded out the Top 10. Next on the food retailers list was Whole Foods Market at No. 37, followed by Aldi at No. 54. Also on the list was Kroger (142), CVS (144), Walgreens (150), Albertsons (161), Safeway (175), Ahold Delhaize (182) and Rite Aid (184).
Following Trader Joe’s on the overall list of innovative companies is John Deere, Ikea, Honda, Amazon, Bath and Body Works, and Costco.
The survey analyzed a company’s “Social Innovation Index,” defined as an innovation that benefits society and the environment based on the experiences of customers, the researchers noted.
“This study captures social innovation from the most important stakeholder of a firm, the customer,” Charles Colby, chief methodologist at Rockbridge Associates said in a statement. “This customer viewpoint is a better predictor of loyalty and company performance than metrics provided by outside experts.”
It is somewhat remarkable that Trader Joe’s is considered by shoppers to be on the cutting edge of innovation. The grocer recently shot down rumors that it would install self-service checkout lanes and has also said that it will never offer delivery or enlist robots to take inventory.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Jon Basalone, Trader Joe’s president and vice-CEO said during the grocer’s podcast earlier this month. “But we’re going to grow. And so the newness comes from the new customers we’re going to be able to reach, the new products that we’re going to see on our shelves, the new opportunities for the crew members who get promoted and get to run those stores into the future … That’s where the excitement comes from. You know, it’s not crazy new ideas like the robot in the aisle that answers questions and helps to clean up spills. It’s simpler than that and actually more exciting than that because of that reason.”