Sketch idea: What if David Attenborough made a nature documentary about the many supermarket chains in the United States? This is the kind of brilliant comedy writing you can expect from me; please don’t steal my idea. ANYWAY: Food Lion. Sounds intimidating, but really it’s just your friendly local supermarket.
What is Food Lion?
Food Lion began with the far more inviting name Food Town. Grocers Wilson Smith, Ralph Ketner, and Brown Ketner opened their first location in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1957 and grew until 1974 when the company was purchased by the Belgium company, Delhaize Group. That’s when expansion really ramped up.
They realized that Food Town was as generic a name as could be, so the owners decided to change the name to Food Lion. They had two reasons: First, parent company Delhaize has a lion in its logo, which adorned many of their store brand products already. Second, changing “town” to “lion” meant only switching out two letters, thus saving on rebranding costs. That right there is smart business.
In the 1990s, Food Lion was the fastest growing supermarket chain in the country. However, they got some really bad publicity about unsanitary conditions in their meat and seafood departments, which brought their expansion to a halt. They eventually recovered, but who knows what the Food Lion could have become if this had not happened.
Where is Food Lion?
Food Lion currently has 1,103 locations, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast United States. Nearly half of those stores are in North Carolina, where the first Food Lion was started and where their American headquarters are still located to this day.
Other states with Food Lions include Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and my home state of Pennsylvania.
I had never heard of Food Lion before this, so I wanted to see where exactly in Pennsylvania they are. There are three of them, all west and south of Harrisburg which itself is two hours from my hometown. So, there will be no Food Lions in my immediate future.
Who owns Food Lion?
Food Lion’s parent company is Ahold Delhaize, the same owners since 1974. Delhaize merged with Ahold in 2015 and holds a wide range of retail stores in 10 different countries. In the United States, they also own the popular online grocery service FreshDirect, as well as my beloved hometown grocery store Giant. My mom will be pleased.