Where do you most frequently buy your groceries?

If you live in the Seattle area, chances are it’s at one of four stores involved in the potential merger of supermarket chains Kroger and Albertsons.

On Friday, Kroger announced plans to purchase Albertsons in a $20 billion deal. In the Seattle area, Kroger owns the QFC and Fred Meyer chains while Albertsons owns its eponymous stores and Safeway.

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Market research data from Nielsen shows the majority of residents in the Seattle area say one of these four stores is where their household most frequently buys groceries.

With so many Seattle-area households dependent on Fred Meyer, Safeway, QFC or Albertsons, the merger could have a far-reaching impact for local shoppers. In order to win federal approval, the two chains would have to sell hundreds of locations in areas with a lot of market overlap. And that could mean some changes to Seattle-area neighborhood grocery stores.

Why a Kroger-Albertsons-Safeway merger could be ‘messy’ in Seattle

Fred Meyer is the most popular grocery store in the Seattle metro, which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. A projected 344,000 households, or 21% of the total, typically buy groceries at Fred Meyer, according to Nielsen.

Safeway ranks second, the most-frequently shopped store for around 315,000 households, or 19.5%. QFC ranks fourth behind Costco, which is not involved in the merger. Roughly 153,000 households in our area, or 9.5%, typically shop for groceries at QFC. Albertsons is well behind the other three, in eighth place. It’s the primary supermarket for around 40,000 households, or 2.5%.

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Add up the figures of the households most frequently shopping at these four stores owned by Kroger or Albertsons and it totals around 851,000 households, or 53%.

Kroger and Albertsons cite competition with Walmart, the largest grocer in the U.S., as one reason for the merger. But in the Seattle metro, Walmart is not a dominant presence. Only 66,000 households, or 4%, most frequently shop for groceries at Walmart, according to Nielsen.

Nielsen data shows some differences in the demographic profiles of Seattle-area shoppers at grocery stores owned by Kroger or Albertsons.

The Nielsen data is based on surveys of nearly 5,700 adults age 18 and older in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The surveys were conducted from Feb. 2020 to Jan. 2022.

Albertsons households had the highest median weekly spending on groceries, at around $185. For the other three stores, the median was close to $155. Part of the reason for higher spending at Albertsons could be that shoppers there had a larger household size, an average of 2.4 people (tied with Safeway). QFC had the smallest average household size at 2.1 people.

QFC households had the highest median income at close to $104,000. At the other end of the spectrum, the median income for Fred Meyer households was $76,000. QFC shoppers were also the most likely to live in a dense housing type, such as an apartment, condo, or townhome/row house, at 47.5%. 64% of Albertsons households were single-family homes. It seems households that most frequently shop at QFC were most likely to be located in walkable neighborhoods, with QFC households having the highest percentage, 19%, not owning or leasing a vehicle.