By Bruce Shultz, Vice President, National Farmers Organization
Recently in the news, I read about another proposed merger in the food industry. In October, Kroger and Albertsons announced their potential partnership. The logic for this merger is single in purpose — to be large enough to compete with America’s two top grocers, Walmart and Amazon.
The CEO of Kroger, Rodney McMullen, was quoted as saying the merger would save the combined companies over $1 billion in administration and distribution costs, and allow technology sharing. While that may sound good if you are an investor, what does this mean to the rest of us?
For consumers, this is a no-win situation. Right now, the two combined chains have just over 5,000 stores in 35 states, along with several overlapping markets.
Not new to a large grocery merger, Albertsons acquired Buttrey Food and Drug, a Montana family-owned chain in 1998. But in this case, all that will happen is the new Kroger-Albertsons group will keep the newest and better-performing stores and sell the underperforming stores. A setback for anyone who wishes to compete with Kroger-Albertsons, there are also jobs lost locally when a merger happens. Albertsons closed a Buttrey distribution center, so those warehouse and trucking jobs were lost.
Kroger-Albertsons says it wants to compete with the big boys, but let’s get something straight; these two are already the big boys.
According to FoodIndustry.com, Kroger is the 4th largest retail grocer with sales in 2021 of $137 billion, and Albertsons is 5th at $71 billion. If they combine, they would control 15% of the grocery marketplace in America.
Kroger CEO McMullen stated they want to more effectively compete with the top two supermarket chains, and this merger will give them greater power in the marketplace in order to do that. This means that they will be able to lower the prices they are paying distributors because of the bonus of selling more products to a single, now larger retailer. While it sounds good for less expensive food, we all know that this potential lowering of food prices will negatively impact farmers.