1. Trader Joes
Trader Joes, which again takes the top spot in this years voting, tends to make people think they didnt know what had been missing from their lives until they went up and down the aisles.
The variety of quality, affordable products makes it easier to try something new, the sample station serves as inspiration for recipes and even that nights dinner, and the staff is noticeably knowledgeable and friendly.
The store focuses on its private-label products as a way to keep costs and thus prices low, with shoppers reaping the benefits.
The Trader Joes origin story involves the high seas, Disneylands Jungle Cruise and granola. Founder Joe Coulombe, inspired by his reading and the theme park ride, opened the first store in 1967 in Pasadena with a nautical theme and the conceptthat it was run by traders on the high seas.It really took off five years later when Trader Joes private-label granola went viral, to use a modern-day term.
Today, Trader Joes pays homage to the cult status of its favorites with its annual Customer Choice Awards, now in its 10th year. The frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken again took favorite overall honors, the frozen Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip was voted favorite appetizer, the Danish Kringle was the favorite bakery item and Peanut Butter-Filled Pretzels the favorite snack, among others.
There are 20 stores currently in Orange County, with one set to open soon on Imperial Highway in La Habra. From its Southern California roots, Trader Joes now has about 490 stores in 41 states and the District of Columbia and counting. Committed customers who move to an area of the country without one reasonably close by are known to lobby the company to end their Trader Joes desert status.
2. Sprouts Farmers Market
Multiple locations; sprouts.com
The Sprouts Farmers Market chain is built on the belief that healthy food should be affordable, and it has gone out of its way to provide thousands of attribute-based items, such as organic, gluten-free, vegan and plant-based, that are also budget-friendly.
Sprouts has nearly 20 stores in Orange County, including its latest in Lake Forest.
An estimated 50 percent of Sprouts business is in produce, according to an industry expert, and you will find that section front and center at each store. Stores also include a butcher shop and fish market, bulk foods and more. For quick meals, Sprouts Market Corner Deli offers made-to-order sandwiches, a salad bar, prepared entrees and side dishes, sushi made in-store and fresh juice.
Sprouts was founded by Boney family members who were longtime grocers in San Diego. The first store opened in 2002 in Chandler, Ariz.; today, there are more than 300 stores in 22 states.
3. Whole Foods Market
Multiple locations; wholefoodsmarket.com
Organic food now may be mainstream, but Whole Foods Market was a game-changer when it opened its first store in 1980. Its popularity is based on customers trust in its quality-based standards.
We are the only USDA-certified organic grocery retailer out there and our standards prohibit over 100 preservatives, flavors, colors and other ingredients commonly found in food to meet our goal of satisfying and delighting our customers, says Frank Scalzo, associate store team leader at Whole Foods Market in Tustin.
We have a very wide demographic, Scalzo says. Whether more family-oriented or a mix of young and old, all of Whole Foods Market stores offer new lower prices to serve the wide array of customers.
Speaking of prices, the effects of the now 2-year-old Amazon-Whole Foods deal are especially apparent to Amazon Prime members, who can take advantage of special deals and delivery offers at Whole Foods.
Since that first Whole Foods store opened nearly 40 years ago in Austin, Texas, the chain has built up to about 500 stores in 42 U.S. states as well as Canada and the United Kingdom.
Its Orange County stores in Tustin, Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Brea.
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