Neither Whole Foods nor Trader Joe’s will build a store in any part of Northwest Indiana in the foreseeable future, according to company officials.
Rumors, fueled by social media postings, have been swirling for years that one or both of the popular grocers plan to locate in the region.
Most recently, speculation placed one of the two companies at the Lake Business Center along Calumet Avenue.
Officials from both companies confirmed this week that neither Munster nor Northwest Indiana is a target market.
“Our only confirmed store opening in Indiana at this time is our Mishawaka store, opening on April 10 this year,” said Amanda Jahnke Sauer, Whole Foods Market marketing field specialist.
Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations with Trader Joe’s, said a store in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties is not in the company's two-year plan.
These decisions are based on specific criteria the companies use to determine “market potential” and aren’t short-term plans, said Subir Bandyopadhyay, professor of marketing at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.
“They are not planning for next year. They are planning for the next 10 years,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay said the criteria or demographics analyzed by companies include population density, income level and disposable income, education levels, family sizes, geographic location and growth patterns.
Disposable income is important because prices at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are higher than traditional supermarkets, he said.
The lifestyles of those living in an area are also important.
“Are they health conscious? Do they want to eat healthy,” he said. “That’s tied into income levels and education.”
And while Munster has good income and education levels, growth and location are lacking, Bandyopadhyay said.
“Munster is not growing. There is hardly any place to build (houses),” he said.
The “critical mass” of potential customers is also missing because companies take into account the same criteria for surrounding communities, the professor said.
Munster Town Manager Tom DeGiulio agreed. Before deciding on a location for any national chain store, company marketing officials draw a circle around the target community and analyze those areas within the circle that are two to five miles from the possible site, he said.
It all comes back to the bottom line, Bandyopadhyay said.
“They go where they can make money,” he said.
Whole Foods has a distribution center in Munster.