Deflation and the weak economy took its toll on North American food distributors in 2009, as total volume for the Top 75 food retailers and wholesalers fell about 0.25 percent compared with a year ago.
Total revenues for the group, which includes sales of both food and nonfood merchandise in North America, were nearly $891 billion, compared with $893 billion in 2008.
The only retailer category on the list to experience dollar volume growth in 2009 was the group of alternative food-retailing formats, which includes all companies not classified as conventional supermarket operators or wholesalers. This group, led by Wal-Mart Stores, the dollar stores and the wholesale clubs, collectively saw sales inch up 2.1 percent in 2009, to nearly $421 billion. That followed a gain of 9.3 percent in the preceding year.
The 10 largest companies on the Top 75 list saw revenues slide 1.2 percent in 2009, to $606 billion, compared with a year ago. Most of the companies in the top 10-which together comprised 68 percent of the total revenues of the Top 75-saw slight sales declines during the year.
Among the top 20, dollar volume was down about 0.8 percent for 2009, to $727 billion. Their revenues accounted for 81.6 percent of the total volume for the Top 75-slightly less than their share from a year ago.
Wholesaler dollar volume declined about 1.6 percent in 2009 among the 19 companies included in the Top 75. Their total revenues of nearly $116 billion represented about 13 percent of the total sales for the Top 75 list.
The four Canadian companies on the Top 75 list-Loblaw Cos., Metro, Sobeys and Overwaitea Food Group-saw their U.S. dollar revenues decline by about 8.1 percent, to almost $56 billion in 2009, compared with 2009 totals.