Peltola hosts online town hall on Albertsons-Kroger merger

a grocery store
The Soldotna Safeway in 2023. (Riley Board/KDLL)

An impending merger between two of the nation’s largest grocery chains has Alaska lawmakers worried about grocery options in the state. Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola hosted a virtual town hall on the subject Tuesday, taking the opportunity to get out in front of a hot-button issue.

Safeway and Carrs owner Albertsons and Fred Meyer owner Kroger announced this fall that they would sell hundreds of locations – including 14 in Alaska – to meet merger requirements. The buyer is New Hampshire-based C&S Wholesale Grocers.

Peltola wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in August, asking the commission to block the merger. Alaska’s senators co-authored a letter in September, expressing “deep concerns” about how the plan would affect prices and competition.

In the tele-town hall Tuesday night, Peltola said she was nervous about what the merger could mean for grocery options in Alaska communities.

“Even with the best intentions, it’s just so hard for grocers who are not familiar with the challenges in Alaska…it’s just so easy for things to go sideways,” Peltola said.

The town hall saw unanimous opposition to the merger from attendees, many of whom expressed appreciation for Peltola’s advocacy. Some shared stories about the impact of grocery consolidation in their communities.

A Soldotna resident named Art said he saw negative effects like job loss and increased prices when Safeway and Carrs merged in 1999.

“We had this before. History repeats itself. If we don’t learn from history, we have a problem,” he said. “And Safeway and Fred Meyers down here in Soldotna are like eight or nine blocks apart. And both parking lots are full at any given time. What’s gonna happen?”

Experts have said the stores most likely to be sold off will be Carrs or Safeway stores that operate near a Fred Meyer. Peltola said that caused deep concerns for her.

“There’s no scenario where that’s a good outcome, if a community that size is losing a whole grocer,” she said.

Peltola asked many participants if she could use their comments and stories to present to the FTC. She said she’s hoping to see action from the commission, and that she invited its chair, Lina Khan, to come to Alaska and listen to constituents about how they may be uniquely affected.

The FTC is expected to continue reviewing the merger into early next year.

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