Food and grocery think-tank the Institute of Grocery Distribution has identified give retailers around the world who are "punching above their weight by offering something different than just competitive pricing."

Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Tesco are the top three in IGD's Global Retail Index, but IGD has also identified Aeon of Japan, Cencosud of Chile, Dairy Farm of Hong Kong and Target and Whole Food Market in the US as serious contenders.

Aeon has increased its IGD globalisation score more than any other operator since the inception of the IGD Global Retail Index in 2000.

Cencosud it is at the forefront of retail innovation in Latin America and has been following an ambitious development plan during the last four years.

Dairy Farm has pursued a rapid internationalisation and acquisition programme to become one of the leading food and drugstore retailers in Asia.

Target has successfully differentiated its 'cheap chic' general merchandise offer from that of Wal-Mart.

Whole Food Market is the world's largest retailer of natural food products, US based and, through acquisition, now active in the UK.

"There is no doubt that price leadership continues to be the overriding strategy adopted by successful retailers worldwide, driven by slow economic growth, ageing populations and price inflation, said IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch. "Price is also the trend that is driving the success of discount players worldwide such as Colruyt (Belgium), Lidl & Schwarz (Germany), Mercadona (Spain) and Aldi (Germany)."

"However, we believe that across the globe there is an opportunity to play on a different turf and this is already evident with five retailers punching above their weight and demonstrating great success by doing things differently, be that a unique format, a differentiated customer offer or smart acquisitions," she said.

"Greater consolidation is inevitable but also there is also a growing trend towards greater customisation," she said. "The two will co-exist on the global stage. Shoppers worldwide are yearning to be recognised and treated as individuals. One size does not fit all."

A new IGD report, Global Retailing 2005, says the global retail market is worth $3,496bn.  It identifies what these five players are doing differently to drive growth and predicts that things are changing on the global retail platform.