Grocery finance expert lauds union jobs, price investment promised by Kroger in proposed Albertsons deal

December 11, 2023, 10:11 pm

In Colorado’s Western Slope mountain towns, where the cost of living is often as sky-high as the two-mile-high altitude, residents frequently have to work multiple jobs to be able to afford basics such as housing, health insurance, gasoline and groceries.

At least one retail grocery investment expert says the combination of higher wages and lower grocery prices is precisely why Kroger’s (King Soopers, City Market) proposed nearly $25 billion deal to acquire Albertsons (Safeway) would be good for rural mountain communities.

Scott Moses

“The most important thing to know about the transaction is Kroger Albertsons is not Albertsons Safeway,” Scott Moses of Solomon Partners said on a recent conference call. “Kroger’s better price and union jobs track record is undeniable. They added 110,000 union jobs in the last 20 years. They’ve invested $5 billion in better prices, both with their full company and with acquisitions. C&S, who is acquiring the divestiture stores, is a great pro-union divestiture buyer with a hundred years of grocery operating heritage, and they’re well capitalized to invest and compete. But, most important, Kroger’s made some crystal-clear commitments: no store closures, no frontline job losses, period. Full stop. More price investment. A billion dollars for better wages. They’re donating 10 billion meals to combat food insecurity.”

Moses, head of the Grocery, Pharmacy & Restaurants Investment Banking practice at Solomon Partners, “specializes in retail sector strategic and financial advice, with a focus on mergers, acquisitions, sales and divestitures of traditional and specialty food and drug retailers and restaurants,” according to information provided by the company.

He said the Kroger-Albertsons merger, which faces federal scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission and state scrutiny from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, includes a plan to sell about 50 stores to New Hampshire-based C&S Wholesale Grocers in order to ease concerns about decreased competition. Kroger has 150 Colorado stores, and Albertsons owns another 105. 

In places across the state such as Steamboat Springs and Vail, where a Safeway is very near a City Market, Moses said it’s possible one of those stores could be sold to C&S, although he added he has no knowledge of specific transactions.

“It is certainly safe to assume that that would be the kind of dynamic the government would be looking at as far as whether those stores would be part of the divestiture package,” Moses said, according to the Steamboat Pilot & Today newspaper.

Moses added that union membership and higher wages can make supermarket grocery stores a good option for communities where non-union, discount big-box stores tend to dominate.

“For years I’ve been sounding the alarm about the rise of the national discount grocers — Walmart, Target, Costco, Amazon, Aldi, Dollar General and Family Dollar, Dollar Tree — and the existential threat that they pose to supermarket grocers, just as we’ve all seen with department stores over the past couple decades,” Moses said. “They’ve been marginalized the same way by some of the same forces.”

Over the last 20 years, Moses said the scales have tipped to discount grocers. Two decades ago, he said supermarket chains accounted for 10 of the top 15 grocers, but since then national discount grocers have added 38,000 new stores, more than doubling their store base to over 70,000 compared to 26,000 supermarket grocery stores. These days, just five of the top 15 grocers are supermarket chains.

Also, over that same timespan, online grocery has quadrupled, led by Walmart, Target, Costco and Amazon. Twenty years ago, Walmart was number one, followed by Kroger in the No. 2 spot “just” $24 billion behind. Now, Walmart is number one by a wide margin, and 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart, which is now a $314 billion U.S. grocery business.

Walmart, according to Moses, has quadrupled its grocery business in the last 20 years, and its grocery business is three times the size of Kroger’s — or $200 billion more. Walmart’s grocery business, in fact, is now more than the next four competitors combined.

“The national discount grocers, all of which are non-union, have over 60% grocery share, and there’s still no national supermarket grocers,” Moses added. “In fact, 20 years ago supermarket grocers were the primary shop for 79% of Americans. It’s now down to 38%. The non-union [discount] grocers, their share collectively is up over 30%. The unionized share of grocery jobs has fallen from 50% to 15% among the top 15 grocers.”

Unions may be having a moment in America lately, from the auto industry to ski patrollers, but some experts say the Kroger-Albertsons merger would be bad for labor. Other experts say the opposite. Pure economics, however, would seem to dictate change is inevitable in the grocery industry.

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington),, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of and

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