What Is Safeway and Who Really Owns It?

Everyone has their preferred grocery store, the one they swear by, the one that has the “best deals.” For some of you out there, it’s Safeway. I’ve never encountered a Safeway in my life, or at least I don’t remember seeing one before. So, in my concerted effort to learn about every U.S. grocery store, today it’s Safeway’s turn.

What is Safeway?

Marion Barton Skaggs founded the first Safeway in 1915 in Idaho. At the time, many grocery stores would sell on credit, allowing the customer to have an account that they could pay off at a later date. Skaggs believed that created higher prices, so his business model focused on cash upon purchase. This was the inspiration for the name—purchasing with cash was the “safe way” to buy groceries because it prevented people from going into debt for their food. 

Skaggs also designed his store for self-service. Customers could walk up to shelves, pick their own items, and pay for them at the front of the store. This cut down on employee costs, which translated to lower food prices. Skaggs’ model was successful; by 1926 he had opened 428 stores. His business acumen led to further mergers and a public listing in 1928. Safeway was also a pioneer in now-standard grocery store practices like nutritional labels, sell-by dates, selling food by weight, and parking lots. Thanks, Mr. Skaggs.

Who owns Safeway?

After Skaggs retired from the grocery game, Safeway had a wild, up-and-down history of expansion and contraction. They were profitable up to the 1980s when, after a private takeover, they were forced to shutter over two thousand stores. In the subsequent decade, they went public again, rebuilding their locations byacquiring local chains, including my Philadelphia grandmother’s favorite, Genuardi’s. Eventually, Safeway was sold to Albertsons in 2015.

So, I live in Los Angeles and there are a number of grocery stores that are an easy commute from my apartment: Albertsons, Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions. When I go home to Philadelphia, my parents live around the corner from the Acme. My grandmother shopped at the aforementioned Genuardi’s, which was bought by Safeway. 

The outlier store is Ralphs, which is owned by Kroger, the largest supermarket operator in the United States; Albertsons is second. And guess what? Kroger announced they were buying Albertsons in 2022. A lot has to happen for that sale to become official thanks to antitrust laws, but odds are it’s going to happen. Naturally, we must ask ourselves: Who owns Kroger? The top three shareholders in Kroger are The Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Berkshire Hathaway. 

Is Safeway expensive?

It depends. Compared to Walmart, yes, Safeway is expensive. According to a recent Washington Post article, Safeway’s prices are over 30% more expensive than Walmart’s and 17% higher than Target’s. But, on average, it’s cheaper than Whole Foods. 

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I take issue to your requirement of providing my date of birth when I order alcohol, and it is obviously apparent I’m over the age of 21. There have been times when I’ve checked out with alcohol that the cashier has not asked for my age. In an era where people try to steal identities, giving my personal information makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m 73 and its totally unnecessary for me to provide my date if birth in a highly visible and audio area at your store.

  • Luke, get your facts right look it up Albertsons does not own Safeway and never has Safeway is the dominant company but Safeway and Albertsons are both owned by the same conglomerate look it up I did before you print something else you better get it right you should anyway Safeway is a dominant company over Albertsons every time oh it has been and still is 20 years from now I don’t think there will be another Albertsons store anywhere it’ll be all Safeways and by the way Safeway is owned by the same corporation that owns Albertsons but Safeway is still the dominant company look it up there’s information that will tell you that from the company that owns both Albertsons and then Safeway and a bunch of other grocery stores and a lot of other things look it up!

    • Kroger is here in Oregon and owns “Fred Meyers”, which use to be a one family operated business……..Kroger is owned by four “major billionaire stock-holders” and now they want to buy Albertsons/Safeway…..After Kroger took over prices have sky-rocketed, funny they are higher since Biden won,,,,,. The Federal Trade Commission announced its decision to block the Kroger-Albertsons merger. trying to buy Albertsons…They are price gauging, if people cannot see that, I do not have any hope for our Country!