Whole Foods Best at Implementing COVID-19 Safety Measures

Ipsos mystery shoppers spotlight health precautions at retailers
Whole Foods Best at Implementing COVID-19 Safety Measures
Whole Foods held on to its No. 1 spot in health-and-safety practices from previous Ipsos studies and also earned the Best in Industry designation.

Whole Foods Market was a big winner in Ipsos’ Health and Safety Best Brand Awards, presented by global research firm Ipsos based on the results of the latest “Consumer Health & Safety Index,” an in-store benchmarking study that assesses how retailers are operating more than a year into the pandemic.

This is the third time that Ipsos has conducted the study. In spring 2021, the firm surveyed 2,000 Americans to discover which health-and-safety attributes are most important to consumers amid the pandemic. Ipsos then conducted mystery shops to gauge brand compliance on health-and-safety attributes across more than 25 brands in four key industries, including grocery and big-box retailers.

The Mystery Shoppers visited almost 3,500 individual locations and evaluated each brand’s compliance with key health-and-safety measures. These included areas such as social distancing, mask compliance, cleaning and hand sanitizer availability. Top-performing brands were given awards for their overall performance, with awards also bestowed by category to highlight the individual nature of the marketplace in which these brands compete. 

“The brands receiving Ipsos’ Health & Safety Awards are being recognized for their responsiveness, diligence and excellence in creating safe in-store experiences for both customers and employees,” said Shohini Banerjee, SVP, U.S. channel performance at New York-based Ipsos. “They have each made monumental strides over the past year to adhere to and consistently implement the health-and-safety policies that build consumer trust something that will last long after the pandemic subsides.”

In the grocery category, Whole Foods and Food Lion led the pack, with Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods holding on to its No. 1 spot from previous Ipsos studies and also earning the Best in Industry designation. Salisbury, North Carolina-based Food Lion was No. 3 in the grocery industry but was recognized as a Best in Category winner for the presence of sanitizers at strategic points in its stores, including at entrances, checkouts and in restrooms.

Among big-box retailers, while Richfield, Minnesota-based electronics store chain Best Buy kept its spot as the top performer in the big-box industry, winning the Best in Industry, Minneapolis-based Target demonstrated improvement in its focus on health and safety, coming in second in the big-box industry and winning the Best in Category award for cleanliness. Issaquah, Washington-based Costco, which has consistently demonstrated strong performance across several waves of the Ipsos’ index, came in third, and also received the Best in Category award for restrooms and barriers to enforce distancing.

As well as garnering Industry and Category awards, Whole Foods, Best Buy, Target and Costco received Best Overall Brand awards. These brands demonstrated strong performance through the end-to-end customer journey, setting them apart from the rest of the 24 participating brands in the Index. 

Each brand included in the third wave of “Ipsos’ Consumer Health & Safety Index” received scores for their compliance to each of the health-and-safety policies observed by mystery shoppers. The policies were determined – and weighted – in accordance with Ipsos Bayes Nets drivers analysis, which determined the COVID-19 in-store precautions that inspire consumer confidence and increase return visits. Each brand received an overall score calculated from the weighted average of each policy compliance score.

The first national certified-organic grocer, Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The grocer is No. 24 on The PG 100 list, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while its parent company, Seattle-based Amazon, is No. 2 on PG’s list. Food Lion’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize USA, is No. 11 on PG’s list, while Costco and Target are Nos. 5 and 7, respectively.

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