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WASHINGTON - Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the supermarket retail format, the Food Marketing Institute said yesterday.
The supermarket is "a resilient and ever-changing enterprise whose contribution to communities worldwide is immeasurable," said Tim Hammonds, president and c.e.o. of FMI.
"Created during the Great Depression, the supermarket first delivered self-service and low prices, then boundless variety, healthy fresh foods, one-stop shopping, convenient prepared foods, and now gourmet, ethnic, and organic offerings," noted Hammonds in a statement. "Today the supermarket endures as a concept more than a single format. Whether consumers are shopping at a conventional supermarket, combination food-pharmacy store, a supercenter, or a warehouse outlet, the business model remains the same: affordable prices, vast variety, abundant fresh foods, and convenience."
Historians agree that the first actual supermarket was a King Kullen store, opened August 1930 in Jamaica, N.Y. The store, comparable to today's no-frills warehouse outlets, sold more than 1,000 products. King Kullen promoted the store unabashedly as "The World's Greatest Price Wrecker!"
Other companies pioneering the supermarket concept in 1930 were Piggly Wiggly in Tennessee, Ralphs Grocery Company in California; and the Texas-based Weingarten's Big Food Markets and Henke & Pillot, the latter of which was purchased by The Kroger Co. in 1956.
Key to the early success of the supermarket were the shopping cart, introduced in 1937; the automobile and free parking; and mechanical refrigerators in the home and store, eliminating the need for melting blocks of ice.
More recently, the supermarket has kept pace with diversifying lifestyles demanding year-round produce from a global marketplace, ethnic foods, organic offerings, upscale and gourmet delectables, and a host of nonfood products and services -- all sold at competitive prices.