Off Brand

How Beloved Texas Grocer H-E-B Became the Ultimate Catastrophe Brand

The chain continues to deliver in hurricanes, pandemics — and now energy grid disasters

Rob Walker
Published in
4 min readFeb 24, 2021


H-E-B Grocery Store and parker cars in front, Texas
Photo: Tony Webster via flickr/CC BY 2.0

The recent Texas weather disaster and subsequent energy grid meltdown left many losers in its wake: residents, power companies, government regulators, and Ted Cruz. But the tragedy also produced at least one clear and unabashed winner: H-E-B, a 116-year-old, family-owned regional grocery chain based in San Antonio and already popular throughout much of the state.

At a moment when Mother Nature offered peril and institutions seemed helpless to respond, the mainstream grocer was open for business with stocked shelves, serving as an anchor of basic competence — and received glowing coverage for doing its job. It’s a halo effect most brands can only dream of, and it’s not the first time total catastrophe has, in effect, been good for H-E-B. The business editor of the San Antonio Express-News summed up the semiserious conventional wisdom that emerged on social media: “We’d all be better off if H-E-B took over the Texas power grid.”