Military commissaries ranked among the top 10 grocery stores in a survey of shoppers published in the July edition of Consumer Reports.
The ratings were based on 50,218 responses from Consumer Reports subscribers nationwide, stemming from 93,447 shopping trips to various supermarkets, supercenters, and warehouses between July 2015 and September 2016, according to the magazine.
The military commissary ranked seventh, with a score of 85 out of 100. Wegmans ranked first, with a score of 89.
Walmart Supercenter stores ranked last out of 62 stores, with a score of 66.
The shoppers rated their stores on 12 different aspects: store cleanliness, competitive prices, fresh store-prepared foods, staff courtesy, checkout speed, produce quality, meat/poultry quality, store-brand quality, selection of healthy options, prices of organic options and local produce quality. The results of these aspects were compiled into the overall score.
The commissaries earned top marks for competitive prices and high or mid-range marks for everything but local produce quality, where reviewers gave them the next-to-lowest rank. General produce quality was in the middle of the road, with meat/poultry offerings skewing higher.
Rocio Guzman, a spokeswoman for Consumer Reports, would not say how many of the 50,000-plus shoppers provided input on military commissaries, claiming that figure was proprietary information. At least 150 responses must rate a store chain for the chain to be part of the survey, Guzman said, adding that commissary responses "were well above that number."
The Consumer Reports analysts noted that the stores with the highest ratings tended to score high in best prices and staff courtesy. Commissaries scored in the middle in the staff courtesy category.
"It's great news that they're rated so highly," said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for the National Military Family Association. "Offering good value is important to military families, and it's something we hope the commissary continues to provide."
Earlier this year, the commissary system changed the way it operates, departing from the long-serving "cost plus 5 percent surcharge" model, with the surcharge paying for store construction, equipment and maintenance. New rules allow stores to raise prices on some items to help reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars required to operate commissaries worldwide. That price tag now sits at $1.4 billion a year.
The Consumer Reports survey was conducted before the new pricing changes began.
Senior reporter Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues. Email her at email@example.com.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.