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Food Lion Announces Plans to Gobble Up Hannaford

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RALEIGH — Food Lionofficials confirmed Wednesday that the company is going to buyHannaford, a Maine-based chain, for $3.6 billion, making Food Lion the sixth-largest food retailer in the country. The purchase feeds some shoppers' fears that their food selection could be shrinking.

AWRAL OnLine Hot Button pollshows Hannaford the least popular grocery store among shoppers who voted. Nevertheless, those loyalists could be in for some change as a result of the industry-wide trend toward consolidation.

"I love shopping at Hannaford," says Jan Swanson of the Maine-based chain. "I'm not a big Food Lion fan."

But change is inevitable as supermarkets try to compete with mass marketers like Wal-Mart andKmart, which now sell groceries.

"Compared to a lot of other cities that are our size, we have a lot more supermarket chains," says real estate analyst Eric Karnes. "If you look at some cities, even large cities like Washington has less supermarket chains than the Triangle does. You look at a city that is more our size, like Louisville, they have considerably less supermarket chains in the market than we do."

Food Lion says Hannaford will maintain its brand identity.

Hannford has been in the Triangle for about five years. Recently, Hannaford opened a state-of-the-art distribution facility in Butner.

The Economic Development director there says about 200 people work in the facility and he expects it to stay open.

WRAL talked to a Hannaford employee's wife. She said her husband was told that Hannaford employees will keep their jobs for the next two years and that company identity and company policies will stay the same for the next two years.

Food Lion is the king of the grocery store jungle in North Carolina. The Salisbury-based chain has more than 400 stores in the Tar Heel state.

Winn-Dixie and Harris Teeter are a distant second and third. Hannaford has only 28 stores.