Data Snack | June 2019

Is Your Grocery Store Diabetes-Friendly?

At dQ&A, our mission is to deeply understand and reflect the real-world experiences of all people who live with diabetes. This goes beyond diabetes drugs, medical devices, and the doctor’s office. We’re working to build up a clearer picture of how factors like diet, mental well-being, opportunities for exercise, and the built environment help or hinder people with diabetes in their daily lives.

We recently asked about grocery shopping. Nutrition is a critical component of diabetes management, and multiple factors play into daily food choices. We wanted to know how grocery stores perform in terms of their ‘diabetes-friendliness.’ Stores also have a lot to gain from knowing where they stand, because people with diabetes make up a significant portion of their customers. In the US, 30 million people are living with diabetes. Another 84 million people are at risk of developing diabetes, and they face many of the same food choice challenges. Together, these groups make up 46% of the US adult population.

There are many ways for a grocery store to be diabetes-friendly: having products for people with diabetes clearly marked and easy to find; selling good value, high quality non-processed foods; having a diabetes section in the grocery or ‘drug store’ areas; offering prescription discounts or conveniences for people with diabetes; or even having professional diabetes advisors available.

For answers, we turned to the dQ&A Community: over 12,000 people with diabetes drawn from all demographic and therapeutic segments of the US diabetes population, and reflecting the geographic distribution of diabetes in the US. This is important here because many grocery chains are regional.

Our survey asked “Which of the following stores do you shop at most often for groceries?” and “How likely would you be to recommend [most shopped grocery store] to another person with diabetes as a diabetes-friendly place to shop for food?” We received over 5,000 responses, along with 3,045 comments explaining with great richness why respondents would/would not recommend certain stores to other people with diabetes.

The top 15 most shopped grocery stores for dQ&A Community members overlapped almost exactly with the top 15 stores by revenue as published by Supermarket News.

The winners on the diabetes-friendly Net Promoter Score® (NPS) question were the medium-sized, private, regional chains. The top four retailers, H-E-B (Texas), Wegmans (Northeast), Hy-Vee (Midwest), and Publix (Southeast) all fit this profile. The survey respondents praised their focus on healthy eating and fresh foods. Nevertheless, their ‘diabetes-friendly NPS’ lags far behind their scores as rated by the general population. So even the most diabetes-friendly supermarkets have room to improve for their customers with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Larger ‘limited selection’ chains with less expensive, private label products, such as Trader Joe’s and Aldi, also did relatively well. But major national stores such as Walmart, Kroger, and Costco have diabetes Net Promoter Scores around zero – meaning that people on the whole would not recommend them to others with diabetes. These stores also score much better among the general public, with overall Net Promoter Scores in the 40s and 50s.

Finally, some chains received very negative ‘diabetes-friendliness’ scores, including Safeway (part of Albertsons), Vons (also part of Albertsons), and Ralph’s (part of Kroger). The write-in comments imply that detractors are frustrated by a poor selection of diabetes-friendly foods, poor produce departments, and poor store organization.

Without easy access to affordable, healthy foods, managing diabetes becomes even more challenging. Grocery stores have a big role to play in diabetes outcomes and our results suggest that there is plenty of room to improve the products, services, and shopping experience they offer to the tens of millions of people living with diabetes in the USA.

dQ&A would like to express its sincere gratitude to all of the community members who participated in its research studies, and who teach us every day how to do our job better.

Please contact dQ&A’s CEO Richard Wood at for more information about this study or inquiries into dQ&A’s industry-leading services, or send us a message below.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest data and news from dQ&A.

    Please send us any questions or comments: