Top 10: Largest Food Retail Companies in EMEA

By Kitty Wheeler
Top 10 largest EMEA food retail companies measured by employees, looking at major players including: Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Ahold Delhaize and Carrefour.
By employee capacity, we look at the top 10 largest EMEA food retail companies, including: Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Ahold Delhaize and Carrefour.

Worldwide, the food retail sector is grappling with a multitude of challenges, including inflation, supply chain disruptions, and shifts in consumer behaviour, which have put significant pressure on companies operating in these industries.

One of the most pressing issues is the soaring cost of raw materials, energy, and transportation. Many have  passed some of this on to consumers, but profit margins have been squeezed for many of these businesses. 

Major companies like Walmart, Tesco, and Carrefour have been forced to implement cost-cutting measures and explore alternative sourcing strategies to mitigate the impact.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards e-commerce and online shopping, forcing traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to adapt and invest heavily in their digital capabilities. 

Sustainability and environmental concerns, meanwhile, have also taken centre stage, with consumers demanding more eco-friendly and ethical products and practices. 

In response to these challenges, many companies in the food and retail sectors have set ambitious goals. These include optimising supply chains, diversifying product offerings, embracing digitalisation, and fostering a greener and more ethical approach to business operations. 

Here, we take a look at the top 10 largest food retail companies in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region, ranked by employee capacity.

10 Metro AG

Country: Germany
Employees: 95,000
​​​​​​​Metro AG, operates wholesale stores under brands like Metro, Makro, and Real. Founded in 1964 and headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, It employs people across 678 stores in 24 countries, with operations concentrated in Western Europe. 

Metro digital transformation has helped automate processes, leverage data analytics, and enhance online platforms. Its growth plans hinge on growing its delivery services and convenience offerings. 

Recent acquisitions include Rungis Express in France, with Germany and Western Europe generating the highest profits.

09 Jeronimo Martins

Country: Portugal
Employees:
120,000
Jeronimo Martins was founded in 1792 and is headquartered in Lisbon. It owns supermarket chains Pingo Doce in Portugal and Biedronka in Poland, and operates over 4,900 stores. 

Supermarket chain Biedronka, is Jeronimo Martins largest operation, generating most profit, and the company saw a growth averaged at 7% annually over the past decade. 

The employment rate in the Food market is projected to amount to 0.34% in 2024.

Jeronimo Martins utilises technologies like warehouse automation, data analytics and mobile apps to enhance operations. It has also digitalised its supply chain management and e-commerce fulfilment processes. 

08 Leclerc

Country: France 
Employees:
138,000
Leclerc, founded in 1949 and headquartered in Ivry-sur-Seine, France, operates hypermarkets, supermarkets and e-commerce platforms, owning brands like Repères and Eco+. In 2022, the company acquired a stake in the French retailer, Auchan. 

Leclerc has experienced steady growth over recent years, expanding its online capabilities and using data analytics tools. It generates significant revenue from its operations in France, Spain and Poland.

07 Sainsbury’s

Country: UK
Employees: 189,000 
Sainsbury’s is a UK-based supermarket chain, whose largest shareholder – with a 15% stake – is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, the Qatar Investment Authority.

J Sainsbury (now the name of the holding company)  was founded in London in 1869, where its HQ is today.

The company  has seen fast growth online. It is currently undergoing a digital transformation, turning to automation, data analytics and delivery robots.  It has modernised its supply chain and stores through a £500 million investment programme.

J Sainsbury 2016 acquisition of Argos bolstered its non-food and digital capabilities. 

06 Aldi

Country: Germany
Employees: 200,000

Aldi
was founded in 1946 and is headquartered in Essen, Germany. It employs globally, and has major manufacturing and distribution centres in Germany, the US, and Australia. It also owns the Trader Joe's grocery chain in the US.  

Aldi's growth accelerated during the pandemic, during which it gained market share. Its growth has also been underpinned by its use of technology, including data analytics, automation, and other digital tools to streamline operations, including inventory management, pricing, staffing, and customer experiences. The UK and Germany generate its highest profits.

05 Carrefour

Country: France
Employees: 320,000 
​​​​​​​French supermarket chain Carrefour operates hypermarkets, supermarkets, cash-and-carry stores and e-commerce platforms.

Founded in 1959 it employs people across 30 countries. Its major brands include Carrefour, Carrefour Market, Carrefour City, Supeco and Promocash. 

The company has implemented comprehensive sustainability initiatives, with initiatives to promote sustainable agriculture and foster responsible consumption through eco-labelling and circular economy programs.

Carrefour also uses blockchain technology for supply chain traceability and automation for e-commerce fulfilment. Its key manufacturing and distribution centres are in France, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

Its growth remains steady, and has been helped by expanding its online offerings, launching mobile apps, and turning to data analytics. 

France, Spain and Brazil generate substantial profits. Its recent acquisitions include Promocash, in France, and Billa's operational companies in Italy.

04 Edeka

Country: Germany
Employees: 335,000
Edeka is a German grocery retailer cooperative founded in 1898 and headquartered in Hamburg. 

It operates over 11,000 stores across Germany and its best known brands include Naturkind and Gut & Gunstig. 

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Germany is Edeka's most profitable market, and the company grew its revenues by 5.2% in 2022. 

Like many food retailers Edeka has installed self-checkouts, and uses mobile apps to drive online grocery sales. Edeka partnered with technology specialist  Picnic to help it deliver on its e-grocery fulfilment strategy.

03 Auchan

Country: France
​​​​​​​
Employees: 340,000
France-based Auchan is a multinational retail group operating hypermarkets, supermarkets and e-commerce platforms. 

Founded in 1961, the company has branches across 13 countries, and major brands include Auchan, Simply Market, Atac and Alcampo.

Auchan leverages technologies such as RFID, IoT and data analytics to optimise operations. Its main logistics hubs are in France, Spain and Russia. Its most profitable territories are France and Russia. 

02 Ahold Delhaize

Country: Netherlands
​​​​​​​Employees:
414,000

Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize was formed in 2016 through the merger of the Dutch company Ahold and the Belgian-based Delhaize Group. 

The company owns supermarket brands such as Stop & Shop, Food Lion, Hannaford (US) and Albert Heijn, and its main distribution centres are in the US and Europe. 

Adhold Delhaize employs 414,000 people across 7,000 stores in the US, Europe and Indonesia. Many of its major brands use technologies like self-checkouts, mobile scan-and-go, automated warehouses and data analytics, to enhance operations. 

The US remains its most profitable market, although margins there have grown tighter amid inflation pressures. 

01 Tesco

Country: UK
Employees: 440,000 
UK supermarket chain Tesco, operates grocery stores across Europe and Asia. Founded in 1919, it owns brands including F&F Clothing and Booker. Its main distribution centres are in the UK. 

The company aims to be carbon neutral across its own operations by 2035, and across its supply chain by 2050.

Growth remains steady amid stiff competition, and its main profit centres are in domestic UK market, followed by Central Europe and Asia. 

Major acquisitions include food wholesaler Booker in 2017 and Best Food Logistics, in 2022.

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