Why H-E-B Is America's Superior Grocery Store Chain

Ask any Texan what they think is iconic about the Lone Star State, and you're guaranteed to see pecan pie, brisket BBQ, and H-E-B on that list. (They're definitely on mine!) That's right — Texas isn't just known for our delicious grub — it's also lauded for the family grocery chain that carries quality products that make those famous dishes possible.

However, there's more to the store besides what you can find on its shelves, and these other features arguably make it the best supermarket in the country. Yes, H-E-B is independently owned and exclusive to Texas and Mexico, but let's look at the facts: The brand has been so successful that not only is it considered one of the best grocery stores in the U.S., but after Amazon, it ranks as America's most popular place to buy groceries. Need I say more? But if that's not enough to convince you, here is my case for why H-E-B is my go-to – and why it should be yours too.

It's accessible – at least in Texas

Although the grocer recently posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that it currently has no plans to expand into other territories beyond Texas and Mexico, you'll find that it's still relatively accessible within the state. Headed to Walmart? You'll probably pass by an H-E-B on the way. For the most part, you'll find some 400+ H-E-B locations along major freeways and main streets, making for an easy, short commute. The supermarket also has extended hours, similar to other grocery stores: At the earliest, most locations are open at 6 a.m. and don't close until 11 p.m.

While this all may sound on par with other chains, here's what really makes H-E-B stand out among the rest in terms of accessibility: I can always find what I'm looking for. Unlike Walmart or other grocers, I never leave frustrated that I couldn't find saffron or my favorite Ruffles. Consistently, stores are well-stocked with necessities and strive to stay that way even during states of emergency.

That's not to say that the chain is immune to supply-demand issues during extreme weather — or a global pandemic. However, unlike other supermarkets, Texas Monthly reports that it follows a model that temporarily reduces operating hours to give staff more time to restock in times of need, resulting in a steady inventory for consumers. Meanwhile, other supermarkets can be left with empty shelves for several days. So, the next time hurricane season rolls around, best believe you'll find me — and many other Texans — at H-E-B. 

It takes care of its people

Although H-E-B is a major chain, it maintains a down-home vibe you won't find anywhere else besides a local mom-and-pop grocer. Perhaps this is because the brand is family-owned, but it's also thanks to the amazing customer service — who can resist that Southern hospitality?

Of course, partnered with that level of care is the chain's mission to support its people, and although you can sense that by how it treats its employees and shoppers, H-E-B truly demonstrates this during times of uncertainty. H-E-B's disaster response is unmatched and has come to Texans' aid when we need it the most. 

For example, after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the supermarket deployed several trucks carrying tanks of clean water to various Gulf Coast residents. It also sent mobile kitchens, pharmacies, and other vehicles transporting food and supplies to affected towns. And store's philanthropy doesn't stop there; five percent of its pre-taxed revenue is donated to various nonprofits benefitting education, hunger relief, and more, per H-E-B.

When it comes to its employees, H-E-B has shown us time and time again that it really values them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the chain decided to grant long-term merit increases to its partners while offering increased paid time off and sick and medical leave, understanding that they were among some of the most vulnerable workers. Since then, the policy has become permanent. Unsurprisingly, this motivates appreciative employees to offer the best customer service they can — because when they win, we win, too.

It has a variety of high-quality, individual and bulk goods

I also appreciate H-E-B for selling products suitable for individuals and families, with items tailored to a range of dietary needs and preferences. Whether you only shop organic or have to stay away from gluten, the store has options for you. Don't feel like investing in a Sam's or Costco membership for the privilege of shopping in a sprawling, bright, unfriendly big box retailer? The comfort of H-E-B stores is complemented by value bulk sections to help keep your pantry and freezer full.

Beyond the variety of goods available, there's something to say about the quality you get. From my experience: H-E-B has the best produce selections compared to other supermarkets. The fruit is vibrant and perfectly ripe, and the vegetables are so fresh that I'm almost convinced there's a garden out back for the grocers to harvest from. Even its generic brand items go above and beyond.

Tasting Table previously ranked H-E-B in the top five on our list of best grocery stores for hot food, and there are plenty of reasons for this. The food market's ready-made section offers dishes that taste like a welcome home-cooked meal, and the serving sizes are more than enough. There are also a lot of options in this department — yeah, you could have your typical store-bought sushi or rotisserie chicken, but why would you settle when you have the chance to indulge in a beef tenderloin steak bowl or stuffed salmon with asparagus?

It supports local businesses and their growth

There are a lot of brands you'll find at H-E-B that you won't see anywhere else, and that's because the chain dedicates itself to supporting local businesses. The supermarket holds a "Quest for Texas Best" contest every year, giving eligible regional suppliers a chance to have products featured on H-E-B store shelves, plus a prize of $25,000. This exposure helps new businesses reach thousands of grocery shoppers, effectively marketing and eventually growing a niche customer base. 

Beyond this, the grocery store regularly partners with thoroughly vetted local farms, ranchers, vineyards, and more to ensure customers can always access fresh, quality products from their favorite small businesses. I personally don't live near Texas' wine country, but it's nice to know I can still indulge in a refreshing riesling from the area without having to go on a road trip or take a tour through the grapevines.