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The Untold Truth of Save-A-Lot: Revolutionizing Affordable Grocery Shopping

The Untold Truth of Save-A-Lot: A Low-Cost Grocery Store That Makes a Difference

Save-A-Lot, a well-known grocery chain with a unique business model, has been serving communities across the United States for more than four decades. While it may not have the delis and pharmacies found in larger supermarket chains like Albertsons and Kroger, Save-A-Lot has thrived by offering low-cost shopping options and serving underserved areas. In this article, we delve into the untold truth of Save-A-Lot, exploring its pioneering strategies, focus on private brands, commitment to communities, and challenges in the competitive grocery market.

A Pioneer in Small Grocery Strategy

Save-A-Lot is a pioneer of today’s increasingly popular small grocery store strategy. In 1977, Bill Moran, a former marketing executive, introduced a new concept to the United States when he opened the first Save-A-Lot store in Cahokia, Illinois. Inspired by the chain model of small grocery stores in Europe, Moran aimed to create smaller stores with a limited selection of items compared to larger chains such as Kroger and Publix. Save-A-Lot stores are typically about 15,000 square feet and carry about 1,250 items, a fraction of what larger supermarkets carry.

Priority for Private Brands

When shopping at Save-A-Lot, customers quickly notice a distinct difference: many of the brand names are unfamiliar. Save-A-Lot focuses on selling its own brands rather than national brands, a key strategy in keeping prices low. With a commitment to simplicity, the store carries only one size and variety of each item, ensuring that it carries the most popular choices. While variety may be limited, customers can still choose from more than 100 different Save-A-Lot brands. This approach allows Save-A-Lot to offer competitive prices without sacrificing quality.

Meaningful brand names

Save-A-Lot takes pride in its exclusive brands, and the names of these products often have special meaning. Many of the store brands, such as Grissom’s Mill and Tipton Grove, are named after store and corporate employees. This unique approach not only adds a personal touch, but also reflects Save-A-Lot’s commitment to creating its own identity. In addition to naming its products, the company designs its own packaging and strives to communicate product quality at affordable prices.

Serving underserved communities

One of Save-A-Lot’s primary goals is to serve communities that larger grocery chains often overlook. While Whole Foods caters to higher-income shoppers with a focus on organic produce, Save-A-Lot targets a different demographic. The store aims to meet the needs of people on fixed incomes who prefer a convenient and affordable shopping experience. Save-A-Lot stores are often located in lower-income neighborhoods, providing essential grocery options to residents who may have limited access to transportation. By offering competitive prices, Save-A-Lot enables customers to stretch their budgets and meet their nutritional needs without compromising quality.

A case of corporate espionage

In an unfortunate incident, Save-A-Lot faced a case of corporate espionage involving one of its former employees. Thomas Altadonna, a former director of market development, was accused of stealing confidential company information and emailing it to his personal account. Altadonna subsequently left Save-A-Lot to work for a competitor, Associated Wholesale Grocer. Save-A-Lot filed suit against him, seeking damages for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of a signed non-compete agreement. While a permanent injunction was issued, the details of the final settlement remain undisclosed. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of ethical behavior when transitioning between jobs.

West Coast Challenges

Save-A-Lot quickly gained a foothold in the United States, expanding to more than 50 stores in its first three years of operation. Although the company expanded into northern states and ventured as far west as Colorado, its efforts to penetrate the West Coast market faced significant challenges. Save-A-Lot’s entry into California and Nevada in 2015 proved unsuccessful, resulting in the closure of all of its stores in the region. The company acknowledged that it would be more beneficial to invest in areas where its brand was already well established. Competition from other grocery chains, including the popular Trader Joe’s and the expansion of Aldi, likely impacted Save-A-Lot’s ability to gain traction on the West Coast.

Competition from Aldi

When it comes to small grocery stores, Aldi is a formidable competitor to Save-A-Lot. Aldi, a chain based in Germany, has surpassed Save-A-Lot in terms of store count and sales. With more than 1,600 stores in the United States, Aldi’s estimated sales reached $10.1 billion in 2015, surpassing Save-A-Lot’s reported $4.3 billion for the same year. Aldi’s success can be attributed to its focus on private label products, similar to Save-A-Lot’s strategy. Both chains emphasize low-cost shopping and offer limited variety to keep prices low.
Despite the competition, Save-A-Lot remains committed to its mission of providing affordable groceries to underserved communities. The company continues to improve its operations and explore new avenues for growth. By adapting to changing consumer preferences and investing in areas where it already has a strong presence, Save-A-Lot aims to overcome challenges and maintain its position in the competitive grocery market.
In summary, Save-A-Lot has carved out a niche in the grocery industry by providing low-cost shopping options to communities often overlooked by larger chains. Its small-format grocery store strategy, focus on private brands, and commitment to serving underserved areas have been the pillars of its success. While facing challenges from competitors and market fluctuations, Save-A-Lot remains resilient in its mission to provide the basics at low prices. As the grocery landscape continues to evolve, Save-A-Lot’s untold truth serves as a testament to its lasting impact on the communities it serves.


Save-A-Lot is different from other grocery stores because of its smaller store size, limited selection of brands and items, and focus on low-cost shopping. It favors its own private label brands over national brands, resulting in lower prices for customers.

How has Save-A-Lot contributed to the small store trend?

Save-A-Lot pioneered the small-format grocery store trend by introducing the concept to the United States in 1977. Inspired by European chain models, Save-A-Lot founder Bill Moran opened the first store with a smaller footprint and a significantly reduced number of items compared to larger supermarket chains.

Why does Save-A-Lot sell mostly private label?

Save-A-Lot sells mostly private label to keep prices low. By offering one size and one variety of each item, they can streamline their inventory and focus on the most popular choices. This strategy allows them to offer competitive prices while maintaining quality.

Who is Save-A-Lot’s primary customer base?

Save-A-Lot’s primary goal is to serve communities that are often underserved by larger grocery chains. It caters to individuals on fixed incomes and those seeking affordable shopping options. Save-A-Lot stores are often located in lower-income neighborhoods, providing essential grocery options to residents who may have limited access to transportation.

What challenges has Save-A-Lot faced in the grocery market?

Save-A-Lot has faced challenges in expanding into the West Coast market, with unsuccessful attempts to establish a presence in California and Nevada resulting in store closures. In addition, competition from other grocery chains, such as Aldi, has presented challenges in terms of store count and sales.

How does Save-A-Lot compare with Aldi?

Save-A-Lot and Aldi are both small grocery chains that emphasize private label products and value shopping. While Aldi has a larger number of stores and higher sales, Save-A-Lot remains committed to its mission of providing affordable groceries to underserved communities. Both chains offer limited variety to keep prices low, but Save-A-Lot has a special focus on meeting the needs of its target demographic.

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