Comparing Prices of Natural and Organic Products: Are you willing to pay almost $6.00 more for just 6 items by shopping at Whole Foods?

King Soopers took a bit of a departure from their normal sale flyer this week by devoting almost three full pages to their pricing of organic and natural products and promotion of their Simple Truth natural and organic private label line. This is a direct attempt to target organic shoppers with promotion of low prices. I compared the prices of six advertised products in the flyer to see how much of a premium shoppers would pay for the same products at Whole Foods and to determine which store would be the cheapest for the six products. The price comparison reflects the price shoppers would pay in-store which is a combination of base or promotional pricing in effect as of February 26th as obtained in each store.

It would have been nice to include some fresh produce comparisons in the chart, however not all stores (namely Walmart) carry the breadth of fresh organic produce that is available at the traditional supermarkets. I did however compare the price of organic kale and, King Soopers definitely has an advantage over Safeway and Whole Foods with its $.99/bunch price point.

The Products Compared

King Soopers Safeway Target Walmart Whole Foods
Annie’s Deluxe Shells & Cheese 11 oz. $3.59 $3.69 $3.29 $3.18 $3.99
Amy’s Bowls $2.99* $3.99 $3.49 $3.48 $4.49
Amy’s Organic Black Bean Soup $2.79 $1.49* $2.24 $2.25 $2.99
Food Should Taste Good Chips $2.99 $3.99 $2.99 $2.98 $2.99
Kind Healthy Grains Granola Bars 5 ct. $3.49* $3.99 $2.99 $2.98 $3.99
Rudi’s Gluten Free Bread $3.99* $4.99 $4.99 $3.99 $5.99
Total $19.84 $22.14 $19.99 $18.86 $24.44

*The Amy’s Bowl’s, Kind Bars, and Rudi’s bread reflect sale prices at King Soopers through 3/3.  The Amy’s soups are on BOGO Free sale at Safeway through 3/3.  Sale price shown after you buy 1 at $2.99 and get 1 Free, and the total is calculated using the $2.99 price.

The Results:

• Walmart’s everyday low prices yielded the cheapest total bill with a total of $18.86.
• King Soopers came in second with a total of $19.84, which is just $.98 more than Walmart and $4.60 (19%) less than Whole Foods
• Target came in third at $19.99, $1.13 more than Walmart and $4.45 (18%) less than Whole Foods
• Safeway came in fourth place with a total of $22.14, a 15% premium over Walmart and $2.30 (9%) less than Whole Foods
Whole Foods came in the most expensive at $24.44, a 23% premium over Walmart where you will pay $5.58 more for the same six products.

That’s like paying almost $1.00 more per item ($.93). Imagine if the list was 40 items long or more.

The biggest difference in pricing was the Amy’s Bowls and Rudi’s gluten free bread where shoppers will pay 33% more or $2 each loaf at Whole Foods today than if they were to buy these items at King Soopers while they are on sale or at Walmart’s with their everyday low price.  It is interesting to note that King Soopers base price for the Rudi’s gluten free bread is $4.59, so it’s still 23% cheaper when it’s not on sale as compared to Whole Foods base price of $5.99.   Even Safeway and Target are $1.00 cheaper every day than Whole Foods for this Colorado made bread.

Are you surprised by the results?  I have to tell you I was surprised at the variance in pricing.  I do love Whole Foods for the seafood and specialty products and have always known they were more expensive, I just didn’t know by how much.

Of course pricing and promotions change frequently, which is why it’s good to compare prices before you shop so that you don’t overpay for your groceries.  This can be tricky to do with grocery retailers highlighting loss leaders in their ads each week, luring consumers with cheap prices on a few produce or meat items that promote cherry picking at its best.  With more and more grocery stores offering delivery or in-store pick-up options, it has become a little easier (albeit time consuming) to compare prices on everything you buy, and it’s forcing the long overdue pricing transparency in the grocery space.

Eva Fry is a local grocery pricing and savings expert.  She manages a free grocery price comparison app uGrocery and grocery sale and coupon match-up site  Consumers can create their own shopping lists for comparison with a free uGrocery account.

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