The grocery store is an ever-changing landscape. New food trends emerge regularly, necessitating stores to make room on the shelves by discontinuing less popular products. And if history is any indication, no products are safe from the clearance section, no matter how beloved they are. If you fear that your favorite comfort snack may be on the chopping block, then you would be wise to familiarize yourself with these signs that indicate an item will soon be discontinued at popular grocery stores.
Almost every grocery retailer includes secret codes in its price tags that reveal the fate of a product. Just keep in mind that not only does every chain handle product discontinuations differently, but also that individual franchises of any given grocery store may have different ways of indicating a soon-to-be discontinued item. That said, these key indicators will give you a solid starting point on where to look for early signs of product discontinuation (hopefully before you find your favorite cereal in the clearance section).
To underscore just how prevalent these discontinuations are, we will also cover some of the most popular items these stores have discontinued in the past. Apparently, nothing is sacred in the fast-paced world of supermarkets.
Aldi Employees Hand Mark Near-Discontinued Items With A D
Veteran Aldi shoppers may already be familiar with this well-documented technique that the supermarket's inventory team uses to market products destined for discontinuation. Still, it bears repeating for those who may not have noticed. The earliest warning sign to watch out for is a handwritten "D" on the label. This indicates that a product will not be restocked and that its status will be changed to clearance once the existing stock dwindles.
There is no telling how long a product marked with a "D" has before its tag is updated to the clearance design pictured above, so shoppers hoping to stock up should do so before the item gets scoped by bargain hunters.
Aldi has shown that they aren't afraid to pull popular items from their shelves, especially if they expect whatever they replace it with to sell even better. That is how Aldi shoppers lost past favorites like Fit & Active Whole Grain Waffles, Pueblo Lindo Red Enchilada Sauce, and Simply Nature Original Shredded Wheat Cereal.
Kroger Brands Use An Oversized Price Tag
Unfortunately, for those who shop at Kroger, there are no early warning signs for items slated to be cleared out from stores. Instead, Kroger-affiliated stores use a convoluted tagging system that seems to confuse employees and customers alike. The first and only sign you will get when an item is slated to be removed is when it gets the oversized red and yellow "closeout" tag.
There is also a "clearance" tag, which is easily misconstrued by both customers and employees. However, employees on Reddit have clarified that this tag does not mean an item is being discontinued. It is more likely to serve as a manager's discount to make more warehouse space or make room for a new version of the product with a different UPC. This tagging system also applies to other Kroger-owned brands like Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Dillons, and more.
It would be nice if Kroger had an early warning system, considering they have discontinued some fairly popular items recently, leaving fans bereaved. These include The Fizzicist Real Sugar Soda, Private Selection brand kettle chips, and Kroger brand Buffalo-Style Popcorn. A moment of silence for the products who are no longer with us.
Trader Joe's Only Occasionally Makes A Handmade Sign
Perhaps you have seen this image of a handmade "soon 2 be discontinued" sign circulating on social media. And perhaps it led you to the conclusion that Trader Joe's must be generally good about notifying its customers of forthcoming product discontinuations. If that were the case, you would be sadly mistaken. As we've covered before, these signs are incredibly uncommon. It varies from store to store whether any kind of advanced notice is provided, but most stores opt to silently discontinue beloved items without hesitation. Naturally, this has led to many disappointed shoppers.
There are simply too many great discontinued items from Trader Joe's to mention all the best ones. For now, a shoutout to the Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake will have to suffice.
If you are worried about your favorite TJ's item getting axed, there is an Instagram fan page called @traderjoestobediscontinued that offers a more comprehensive indication of which Trader Joe's products are on the way out.
Costco Puts The Death Star On Soon-To-Be-Discontinued Items
Because of how large Costco warehouses typically are, it's hard to tell if your favorite item has been discontinued or simply moved to a foreign part of the store. That is why you should keep an eye out for an asterisk on the top right corner of an item's price tag. This symbol — colloquially called the "Death Star" — is the earliest warning sign that an item is slated to be discontinued (via Reader's Digest). From there, the item's price tag is slashed, and it gets marked as a clearance item. And clearance items don't last long at Costco.
Considering how regularly popular Costco items are discontinued, it is clear that even warehouse stores don't have enough space for all of the great items shoppers want. Some of the discontinued Costco items we miss the most are the Kirkland Signature Turkey Burgers, Kirkland Signature Trek Mix, and the Polish dog from the food court.
Publix Has A Special Clearance Icon To Look Out For
Publix deserves praise for having one of the most easily decipherable tagging systems out of all the major supermarkets (even though it's not perfect). It has a detailed list of tags and icons on its website, including a distinct clearance tag for products that will soon be unavailable. That said, Publix's price tags only have room to fit one of these icons. So, if a clearance item is also vegan or gluten-free, it might instead have an oversized tag with an orange banner like in the above picture or a generic price sticker on the product itself.
Unfortunately, this system doesn't provide early notice for customers looking to stock up before inventory dwindles, which means Publix has already scorned many devoted shoppers by abruptly removing fan-favorite items. These discontinued items include Fresh Creations Street Corn Dip, Publix Black Cherry Soda, and Publix Exotic Fruit Medley Sherbet. If you fear that your personal favorite Publix item may soon be discontinued, then keep an eye out for the big orange clearance tag.
Safeway And Albertsons Often Pull Discontinued Items From The Shelf
Safeway is a supermarket chain known by many different names. But whether you know it as Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Jewel-Osco, or some other moniker, you won't be too likely to find a discontinued item on the shelves for long. According to a publicly available resource for Safeway suppliers, the store requires its vendors to be responsible for clearing out discontinued inventory items.
That said, the company occasionally still has to clear out inventory of a product on the shelf for unforeseen reasons. When it does, it uses the tag design pictured above. The oversized yellow design is fairly easy to spot, but there are no early warning signs that precede this tag.
Surprisingly, there aren't many Safeway items whose discontinuation upset customers enough to post about it online. Without a doubt, Safeway has pulled the rug out from under shoppers at least a few times since its inception in 1915, but any recent offenses have gone undocumented.
Target And Walmart Use Endcap Displays To Clear Out Discontinued Items
When it comes to noticing discontinued items at big box stores like Walmart and Target, it's not about what to look for but where to look. Clearance items are typically scattered throughout these stores, but the absolute best place to look for them is on endcap displays marked "clearance." (via The Sun). Although this doesn't leave hardcore fans much of an opportunity to stock up on their favorite soon-to-be discontinued products, it is a reasonable strategy considering the massive size of these warehouse-style superstores. This system allows the stores to quickly clear out their aisles for new products while ensuring deal-seeking customers take home the unwanted inventory.
Since Walmart and Target each sell thousands of different items under one roof, the store has discontinued (and likely re-continued) every type of product under the sun. With that in mind, we'll use this space to honor retired products that you can no longer find in any stores. Here's looking at you, Odwalla, Altoid Sours, and 3D Doritos.
Whole Foods Uses A Last Chance Tag
Since Whole Foods locations often partner with local small-batch brands, this grocery chain has a frequently rotating stock of goods. Thankfully for shoppers, the company offers plenty of easy-to-spot signs that an item will soon be discontinued. The company uses an oversized green tag that says "last chance" when an item is on the way out. Sometimes, the tag even includes when the item will be removed from the shelves.
For added confirmation, you can reference the last digit of the price as well. One Whole Foods employee on Reddit mentioned that a price ending in "7" indicates a permanent discontinuation. This helps differentiate from a temporary selldown, which is signaled by a price ending in "5."
As for the most tragically discontinued items from Whole Foods, it's got to be the Brett Anthony Crème Brûlée or the 365 Carrot Miso Ginger Dressing.
Sam's Club Has A Secret Code For Clearance And Soon-To-Be Discontinued Items
Given the member-only pricing strategy that Sam's Club uses, it can be tricky to differentiate a clearance deal from a manufacturer's discount. Thankfully, there are two easy tricks to identify an item that is about to be unavailable at Sam's Club. According to The Krazy Coupon Lady, you should look for item prices that end in "1." Additionally, you will find a C at the end of the UPC of any item soon to be discontinued. Seeing one or both of these indicators is a good sign to stock up on an item you can't live without.
Sam's Club has discontinued more than a handful of beloved items over the years, but Pom Wonderful Fresh Pomegranate Arils has to be one of its most sorely missed products. It is always a bummer when a popular product gets discontinued, but jaded shoppers know better than to expect any product, no matter how delicious, to last forever.
Wegmans Makes Discontinued Items Obvious (When They Have Them)
Be warned if you have an item you truly love at Wegmans: you are not guaranteed any kind of warning before it is pulled from shelves. According to multiple Wegmans employees on Reddit, the store does not typically sell items once the manufacturer discontinues them. Instead, it usually donates the items to a local food bank or homeless shelter. It's a thoughtful practice, but is there any harm in throwing up a discontinued tag first? Apparently not, as you will still occasionally see oversized yellow "discontinued item" tags on Wegmans for items that might not be easily donated.
When reflecting on some of the best items to have ever been from Wegmans, the Wegmans Brand Soda is one of the most painful losses in recent memory. The soda had been around since 1991 but finally got axed because its ingredients list didn't align with the company's new motto of "Food You Feel Good About."
Winn Dixie Calls It A Close Out
Southern grocery store chain Winn Dixie is no stranger to discontinuing unpopular items. A supply chain replenishment support manager for the company once explained that Winn Dixie doesn't introduce new products to its shelves without a specific exit strategy. This typically takes the form of a manufacturer-funded markdown program (via Supermarket News). In other words, less established products go on clearance often at Winn Dixie. Customers can look for "close out" deals with a red and yellow bullseye design to identify items that the company might deem to be a waste of valuable shelf space.
Since Winn Dixie has struggled financially for the last few years, you will likely see even more items go on clearance in the near future. Aldi executives are in talks to buy out the struggling grocery store brand, which could mean many more products will be removed from store shelves. So, while the store has seen some impactful product discontinuations in the past, the most uproarious product clearances are likely yet to come.
Look For The Color Purple When Shopping At H-E-B
If you regularly shop at Texas-based supermarket H-E-B, let the color purple be your visual indicator to check for a clearance deal. This store chain doesn't provide any early indicators when they discontinue any specific item, so the vertical purple "clearance" tag on the left-hand side of a price tag is the first and only warning you'll get that an item won't be restocked. Alternatively, you can look for a large purple "clearance" banner on an endcap display, which is sometimes used when a whole line of products is discontinued simultaneously.
H-E-B has a history of discontinuing fairly popular products, too, so don't assume your favorite item is immune from the chopping block, either. If the company was willing to discontinue the Frozen Honey Chipotle Salmon Fillets, Pistachio Muffins, Thelma's Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches, then they would be willing to discontinue just about anything.
Dollar General's Discontinued Items Go Onto The Penny List
For the most part, Dollar General's strategy for clearing out unwanted inventory isn't that much different from other grocery stores. However, the low prices offered by this chain make the Dollar General clearance system much more exciting. First, items will go into normal clearance, usually 50 or 90 percent off. If they still don't sell, these items go into something called "The Penny List." This list is more for internal use, as it indicates to shelf stockers that it is time to donate or destroy these items. But you can technically still purchase these items for one cent — if you can find them, that is. These items are never labeled by staff or identified by marketing, so you have to check product lists shared in online deal-hunting groups if you want to beat Dollar General staff to the punch. And, again, if nobody buys them, they will end up in the dumpster or a Goodwill shelf, so if you spot an item ringing up for one cent, don't feel bad about snagging the whole stock.
Unfortunately, these deals are more common in NCI (non-consumable initiative) Dollar General locations, whose inventory focuses more on domestics, housewares, and party goods. That means you are less likely to find food discounted to this price. They do show up periodically, though, so keep an eye out for online Penny Lists if you regularly shop at Dollar General.
Check FlashFood If Your Favorite Item Is Missing From Meijer Shelves
Meijer stores are not the best when it comes to identifying soon-to-be discontinued products. There aren't any public-facing indicators that an item will go onto clearance until it gets the orange discount sticker pictured above added to it. But a clearance item isn't even guaranteed to get the clearance sticker in the first place. That's because most Meijer locations partner with a service called FlashFood. FlashFood is an app that allows stores to offload discontinued or soon-to-expire products directly to consumers at a bulk discount, preventing food waste and saving the customer some serious cash. But while it is a great concept, it makes it challenging for those who really love a discontinued food item to get their hands on it. Because FlashFood items are bulk-batched, only a few lucky shoppers reap all the spoils. Still, it is a resource worth using for those trying to save some money.
So far, Meijer's most egregious product discontinuations are its store brand soda and its deli pizza. Good luck finding as good of a food and drink combo on FlashFood today, though.
Read the original article on Mashed.