Great ResignationInflationSupply ChainsLeadership

The 9 biggest places to buy food

June 19, 2015, 3:57 PM UTC
Starbucks Price Hike
In this May 31, 2014 photo, a woman holds a coffee drink outside a Starbucks in downtown Chicago. Starbucks is raising prices on some of its drinks by 5 cents to 20 cents starting next week, and customers can also soon expect to pay $1 more for the packaged coffee it sells in supermarkets. Prices for medium and large brewed coffees, which are known as Grande and Venti, respectively, will go up between 10 cents and 15 cents in most U.S. markets, the company said. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Photograph by Gene J. Puskar — AP

For evidence of consumers’ changing eating habits, look no further than the Fortune 500.

Shoppers are now spending their dollars in ways that are having a real impact on the places where they buy their food. The restaurant and supermarket chains that moved up our ranking, calculated by revenue, were the most likely to be aligned with consumers’ views on health and wellness.

Take Kroger. The supermarket giant, which has own its natural food brand called Simple Truth, jumped a few spots, as did Publix, which has a solid reputation for fresh food. Whole Foods Market, which has paved the way in the organic arena, also moved up the list.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, the company behind Olive Garden, both dropped. They’ve lost ground to “fast casual” restaurants like Chipotle and Panera, which bill their food as natural and healthy.

Scroll down for the full list of the biggest supermarket and restaurant chains of the Fortune 500.

1. Kroger

A shopper pushes his cart down an aisle inside a Kroger Co. grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The Kroger Co. is scheduled to release earnings figures on June 19, 2014. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fortune 500 rank: 20 (up from No. 24 last year)

When customers started telling Kroger (KR) they wanted natural products cheaper and with clearer labeling, the grocery giant didn’t wait for a supplier to answer the call. Instead, it launched its own line, called Simple Truth, which it grew into a $1 billion brand in less than two years. Simple Truth, which continues to have double-digit sales growth, has been the company’s most successful brand launch ever, with more than 20 million households buying at least one of the line’s items during the year. Kroger’s willingness to move with its customers helped the company capture market share for 10 straight years and post 45 consecutive quarters of supermarket sales growth.

2. Safeway

A Safeway baker puts out fresh bagels at the store in Wheaton, Maryland February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES) - RTR4PJ4H

Fortune 500 rank: 84 (down from No. 67 last year)

The year 2014 marked Safeway’s last as a publicly traded company. In January, the supermarket chain completed its merger with privately held Albertsons in a union backed by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The $9.4 billion deal created a company with about 2,200 stores, giving it more muscle to compete with Kroger, retail behemoth Wal-Mart, and fast-growing “natural” chains like Sprouts and Whole Foods. Before the deal, Safeway had been trying to reposition itself, selling off its Canadian operations and selling or closing its Dominick’s stores.

3. Publix Super Markets

A customer shops in the produce aisle at a Publix.

Fortune 500 rank: 101 (up from No. 104 last year)

Publix may only operate in six states—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and, most recently, North Carolina—but it’s still managed to create a cult-like following with its nearly 1,100 outlets. As consumers have moved away from processed foods, Publix’s reputation as a place to buy fresh products has given it a boost. That in part helped increase customer counts last year, leading to higher sales and profits. Publix, with all of its stock held by current and former employees and their families, is a regular on Fortune’s ranking of the Best Companies to Work For.

4. McDonald's

A burger set is displayed at a McDonald's restaurant.

Fortune 500 rank: 110 (down from No. 106 last year)

For the Golden Arches, 2014 was a no good, very bad year. The laundry list of problems included higher commodity costs, tougher competition, a maturing industry, a supplier issue in China, and a strapped consumer base. It all came together to result in McDonald’s (MCD) first year of negative global same-store sales since 2002. But an even bigger issue for the company is an existential one—how does it cater to a consumer who increasingly favors fresh and healthy over fast and consistent. CEO Don Thompson was working to simplify the menu, improve McDonald’s pricing strategy, implement digital initiatives, and roll out a build-your-own-burger platform. But with the pressure mounting, Thompson announced in January he would step down.

5. Supervalu

Dustin Stargel, delivery driver for Capital City Ice, wheels a cart of bagged ice through a Shop 'n Save grocery store in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug, 26, 2014. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is scheduled to release U.S. manufacturing figures on Sept. 2. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fortune 500 rank: 164 (down from No. 94 last year)

Supervalu CEO Sam Duncan further solidified his reputation as a turnaround artist during his first full fiscal year in the job heading up the struggling supermarket company. After years of revenue and profitability decline and market share loss in a highly competitive industry, Supervalu (SVU) started to stabilize. In addition to bringing in a new management team, Duncan decentralized operations, pushed for better execution at the store level, and tried to improve the company’s private label. He also completed the sale of five of its banners—Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, and Star Market—and doubled down on its discount chain Save-A-Lot.

6. Starbucks

Fortune 500 rank: 187 (up from No. 196 last year)

Despite a tough retail and consumer environment, the coffee giant posted a year for the record books: record revenue, record operating income, and record operating margin. Starbucks (SBUX) even closed out its fiscal 2014 with its 19th quarter of positive same store sales growth at or above 5%. Starbucks got a huge lift from its lead in mobile, with 16% of all in-store transactions coming through customers’ mobile devices. The gift card business is going strong, with about one in eight Americans receiving a Starbucks gift card during the last holiday season. Sales got a boost from the chain's improve food, but outside of the coffee shop the company drove sales of its branded packaged goods products—750 million Starbucks K-cups, for example, were shipped during the year.

7. Whole Foods Market

An employee puts flamed cooked rotisserie chicken onto a pan after taking them out of the oven at a Whole Foods Market Inc. store in Dublin, Ohio, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Whole Foods Market Inc. posted fiscal fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as the grocery-store chain slashed prices to win over bargain-hunting shoppers. The shares soared the most in four years. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fortune 500 rank: 214 (up from No. 218 last year)

As more retailers have caught on to the food revolution, Whole Foods (WFM) is setting itself apart as the go-to destination for organic goods, which make up 30% of its sales. This year the Austin-based chain launched its first-ever national advertising campaign, touting Whole Foods as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.” More than 60 of its 399 stores averaged at least $1 million in sales per week, with sales per gross square foot hitting a record $990. Whole Foods has tried to keep its edge through new initiatives such as a partnership with grocery-delivery service Instacart, a loyalty program in pilot mode, a wine club, and a responsibly grown rating system for its produce.

8. Yum Brands

Fortune 500 rank: 228 (down from No. 216 last year)

As China goes, so goes Yum. That made for a challenging second half of the year for the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. In 2014 Yum suffered through the second high-profile supplier issue in two years in China, which makes up about half of its revenue. The recovery there was slow—the country’s KFC average unit volumes were 20% off peak levels. In Yum’s (YUM) other business units, Taco Bell was a bright spot in part thanks to the launch of breakfast and mobile ordering. Pizza Hut, with a new menu in the U.S. and a push in digital, is also seeing improvements.

9. Darden Restaurants

A waitress carries a tray a lobster kettle and a crab trio dish at a Red Lobster restaurant in Yonkers, New York, U.S., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. Darden Restaurants Inc. and Golden Gate Capital announced that Golden Gate has completed the acquisition of the Red Lobster business. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fortune 500 rank: 325 (down from No. 319 last year) 

The casual dining company has been punished by customers’ flight to fast-casual restaurants (think Panera and Chipotle) and an unsustainable level of price-driven promotions in the category overall. In 2014 Darden (DRI) sold off its underperforming Red Lobster brand, a move that riled activist investor Starboard Value. Executives also implemented a “renaissance plan” to turnaround its Olive Garden chain—a strategy that included emphasizing fresh ingredients, lower-priced items, and improved quality and service. When Clarence Otis announced he would step down as CEO, Starboard called it “just one small step in the transformation that is urgently needed.”

See the full Fortune 500 list at