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What Is the Supermarket Industry?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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The supermarket industry refers to the business of selling raw foodstuffs and similar products in a retail environment. There are a number of different types of businesses within this industry, usually consisting of markets and grocery stores, which can consist of small operations or large corporations with numerous locations. The supermarket industry can be considered a part of the food service industry, though it is often seen as a separate industry since there are a number of considerations supermarkets have to make that are different than running a restaurant or similar establishment. Products offered by supermarkets usually include raw foodstuffs, though prepared foods can also be sold.

In many ways, the modern supermarket industry has grown out of the traditional markets once prevalent in numerous countries. These markets acted as a gathering place for individual merchants, many of whom were selling their own goods. Such markets were often open air establishments in which people could peruse the various fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish available from farmers, butchers, and fishmongers. Many of these same products are offered by the supermarket industry, though the process of acquiring and selling these goods has become more standardized.

The supermarket industry is a retail industry in which goods are sold, and these goods are typically not grown or produced by the businesses involved in operating supermarkets. Foodstuffs, including produce, dairy products, meats, seafood, and canned goods, are all provided to supermarkets by other companies or individual growers. Supermarkets then sell these products to consumers, providing a modern equivalent to the marketplace of the past. Since the supermarket industry does not control the production of the goods sold within their retail locations, however, it may have little control over fluctuation in prices of such goods over time.

While raw foods and unprepared products may be the staple of the supermarket industry, many supermarkets have also begun selling prepared foods. These usually include both hot and cold foods, as well as baked goods such as fresh bread, donuts, and cakes. Such additions to the supermarket industry have brought it closer to the food service industry in many respects, though there are still a number of differences between the business models found within each industry. The restaurants that makeup much of the food service industry are often far more involved in customer satisfaction through good service and unique dishes, while supermarkets typically promote fresh produce and a wide variety of products or local goods to attract customers.

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Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Feb 03, 2013

What are the careers in the supermarket industry? Is it a good industry to work in?

By literally45 — On Feb 02, 2013
Supermarkets might have grown out of traditional markets but I think they're far from it now. Supermarkets are expensive, the food is not as fresh and the environment is not as friendly.

I grew up in North Africa and I love the fresh food markets there. You can find everything -- fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, bread, household items and clothing. But it's so affordable, everything is extremely fresh and you can negotiate on the prices. It's much like the farmer's markets in the US today.

Modern supermarkets are not at all satisfactory on these points. I prefer a traditional market over a supermarket any day.

By candyquilt — On Feb 01, 2013

I remember the emergence of first large supermarkets when I was a kid. My family went to see what it was like when the nearest one opened. It was very exciting because it was so large and you could find everything.

Before this, we were used to going to many small stores to buy different things. If you wanted meat, you would go to the butcher's market. If you wanted cleaning supplies, you went somewhere else, for bread you went elsewhere and so forth.

For the first time, everything was found in one place. Shopping became so convenient along with supermarkets.

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