Whole Foods vs. Safeway

Co-worker claim: Whole Foods is more expensive than Safeway.
Justification: They rip you off just because they can, and people are dumb enough to pay the higher prices.

My claim: That's BS! Their prices should be exactly the same.
Justification: This is what logical theory says. It's called Econ 101.

How to resolve this conflict? By doing an experiment, of course!

Here are my results from walking around in Whole Foods and Safeway with my camera-phone. I randomly chose different classes of foods, found products that were in both stores, and took pictures:

Banana Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Budweiser prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Horizon Organic Milk Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Florida's Natural Orange Juice Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Honey Nut Cheerios Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

Cheerios Prices at Whole Foods and Safeway

So what's the conclusion from all this? Averaging all of these products, Safeway is 4.3% more expensive than Whole Foods.

Result: We were both wrong. FAIL.

Posted on April 30, 2008
Comments (20) Trackbacks (0)
  1. If you’re willing to submit to giving up your personal shopping habits, safeway has a club card too to discount lots of things.

    For myself, whole foods does have more specialty items that are way expensive that I will impulse buy

  2. Hmm that’s a good point about the club card. None of the items I looked at had club card discounts, but it would be interesting to compare those prices as well. The cynical wisdom is that they just raise the prices on all the non-club card people so it’s not really a discount :)

  3. Wow! A new post! :)

    That is a fascinating study. So…is Safeway really a place you’d shop for groceries there? Here, it’s just a quick mart where you get that emergency item you need when you fill up for gas.

    Also, I’m a coupon cutter. Don’t laugh! I am not one of these people you see on the news who is fanatical about it, but I do cruise through the Sunday paper and only cut out coupons for products I regularly use. With the “double coupons” deal at my grocery store, I’ve saved as much as $56 in one visit.

    Like Whole Foods for specialty things, but this place is near me and it’s way cooler:
    http://www.junglejims.com

    If you like imported foods, exotic beers and wines and good fresh produce, this is the place to go, coupons or not! (The owner is kinda nutty, but very creative…)

  4. Hmm yeah the Jungle Jims guy does look a little crazy from the web site :). Interesting store.

    And no, I don’t usually shop at Safeway either. Though I might go there if I need cheap commodity items like Cheerios.

    I should probably check if Whole Foods has coupons. I guess that is actually one advantage of getting a paper-based newspaper.. hmm.

  5. Yay iPhone camera! :o)

    You should compare the prices with Target, I find them cheaper still. $4.69 for 8.5 Oz of Cheerios? Damn.

  6. Yeah the price for Cheerios is a total ripoff.

    Unfortunately we don’t seem to have SuperTargets here, so I can’t compare grocery prices at Target..

  7. Interesting… What are the prices of things like meats?

    my sister swears by trader joes

  8. More info for your database:
    Safeway, Thornton Colorado
    Bananas $.69 (22% cheaper than Seattle Safeway)
    Horizon Organic Milk $3.69 (12% less)
    Florida Naural OJ $3.99 (11% less)
    12.25 oz Honey Nut Cheerios $3.29 (27% less)
    8.9 oz Cherrios $3.25 (9% less)

    Maybe we should bring food from Denver when we travel to Seattle this summer??? :)

  9. Some prices from Tesco in England (converted from pounds and metric measurements):

    Bananas: $.69/lb
    1 qt organic milk: $1.93 (almost half price!)
    Florida O.J.: $1.74 (less than half price and it comes from the USA!)
    Honey Nut Cheerios (13.2oz): $3.92 (larger for less)
    Regular Cheerios (14.1oz): $3.90 (also larger for less)

    I find the prices in grocery stores in the USA to be astronomical. This is in complete contrast to the price of electronics and cars.

  10. Hmm those prices are interesting. The difference between Denver & Seattle is pretty much expected due to the costs of living, but I’m surprised that the England prices are so much lower. Is it because of the weakening dollar (and so prices will eventually equalize)? Or is it a tax thing? (but these prices are pre-tax so hmm..)

  11. You don’t pay tax on unprepared food in England.

    English grocery store prices have actually gone up a lot since I left the UK in 2002. I don’t think the difference has anything to do with the weakening dollar, since food in England was still a lot cheaper in 2002 when the exchange rate was closer to $1.40 to the pound.

    One comparison I particularly like is with soup. In England, you can get a large can of tomato soup for about 30 pence (approx 58 cents). They sell the same cans in World Market for $2.50, whereas a can of Campbell’s Condensed (which tastes disgusting in comparison) is $1.99. How does Campbell’s soup cost so much when it is made in the USA? It probably costs less than a cent to manufacture.

    I think people will continue to pay “expected” prices for certain items. In the USA, people expect to pay $2-3 for a good loaf of bread. In England, people would be horrified to pay more than 50 pence (about a dollar). On the flip side, people in England will gladly pay 14k pounds for an economy car, but in the USA, the same can be had for 14k dollars.

  12. Its still hard to compare imo. Were any of the items in any comparison on sale of any kind? The milk is much smaller then a gallon (or even smaller then 1/2 gallon).

    In theory by price parity will generally even things out (i.e. milk isnt so cheap in one area you could buy a bunch and sell it in another area for a huge profit). While the safeway vs whole foods in a given area is a bit different. comparing prices across borders ventures into something similar to the big mac index (http://www.economist.com/markets/bigmac/index.cfm) where the theory is you can tell if a currency is over or under valued according to its relative big mac price.

  13. Didn’t we do a project on something similar to this in high school?

  14. Hmm, it doesn’t sound familiar. What class are you thinking of?

  15. Today the 8.9 oz. Cheerios are $2.49 at Safeway in Honolulu with a club card.

  16. Hmm that’s interesting. I did not account for club card discounts in my prices. I wonder how much that might affect it…

  17. Thanks for such a great blog! We just got a new safeway in the Pearl District in Portland and I’ve often wondered if the organics at safeway were the same price as at whole foods…

    I think i’m still going to do my own study and blog..to compare and contrast..though, safeway doesn’t carry much free range, hormone free, or grass fed…

  18. There is a big difference between the two however outlined in this blog right here. Safeway is a union store, whole foods isn’t.

  19. Safeway offers low prices and specials on some items – and other items are breathtakingly high. And what’s with these “new lower prices?” If a small box of Pop Secret is a buck cheaper now, were they just gouging us before? I find their games really aggravating, so I spend my grocery money at WFM or TJ’s instead.

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Eric Faller

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