Midwest grocery chain Hy-Vee plans to expand its footprint with a move into four southeastern states.

The chain, which presently has more than 285 locations, will open new stores in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Indiana. Supported by the opening of its third distribution center in Nashville, the grocer expects to have at least 21 new stores in the four states in the next four years, including in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Huntsville, Louisville and Indianapolis.

“This is the growth for the next 25 years for Hy-Vee in this territory,” said Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker in a video to employees obtained by the Des Moines Register. “If we can build out 50 stores in this market, we estimate that is $6 billion [in sales]. But overnight we’re going to go from a regional company to a national company.”

The employee-owned chain currently operates in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The move will mark Hy-Vee’s first expansion into a new state since 2009, when it entered Wisconsin.

Aldi, Publix and Wegmans are among major grocers that have been expanding their U.S. footprints over the past few years, despite having ramped up e-grocery as the pandemic imposed challenges to foot traffic. Kroger earlier this year entered Florida with a digital-only push.

According to the Courier Journal, Hy-Vee — with the slogan, “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle”— is Iowa’s largest private employer, standing out for its dine-in and carry-out options, full-service meat department and bakery, fuel discounts and customer service.

Hy-Vee is expected to face strong regionals, national grocers and big box chains that are entrenched in the new markets it is entering.

John Talbott, director of the Indiana University Retail Research, speaking about Hy-Vee’s prospects in Indianapolis, told the IndyStar, “Price is one thing you compete in, but, you know, the biggest players in the market are Walmart and Kroger. These guys are not going to go in and out of the Walmart and Kroger price. That’s just inconceivable,” Talbott said. “They are going to compete on something completely different, which is the perception of quality and customer service.”


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