Which Supermarkets Are Best for Price and Quality?
Last updated in November 2015
Our price comparisons and ratings of stores for quality show the results of our price shopping and our most recent surveys of consumers on supermarket quality and service. Here are the key findings—
The area’s price winners were Walmart, DeMoulas Market Basket, and Hannaford Supermarkets.
Walmart’s prices averaged about seven percent lower than the average prices at the Stop & Shop stores we checked and about 14 percent lower than the prices at the Shaw’s stores we checked. Market Basket’s prices were about five percent lower than Stop & Shop’s and 13 percent lower than Shaw’s. Hannaford’s prices were about 12 percent lower than Shaw’s. For a family that spends $200 per week at the supermarket, a five to 14 percent price difference could total $520 to $1,450 a year.
In our Philadelphia and Washington, DC, area editions of Checkbook, we’ve for years found that Wegmans accomplishes a rare supermarket feat by offering astonishingly high-quality products and service at low prices. In 2014, the Rochester, N.Y.-based chain opened its first store in the Boston area—in Newton—and two more (in Burlington and Westwood) opened this year. It’s already the 1 ranked store for quality in the area among consumers we surveyed (an astounding 93 percent rated it “superior” overall) and offers prices that are about seven percent lower than Shaw’s.
Stop & Shop’s prices were about eight percent lower than Shaw’s.
In our previous surveys, Target was one of the big winners for price, but in this year’s survey its prices were roughly the same as Stop & Shop’s and only seven percent lower than Shaw’s.
Within the largest chains, there is relatively little store-to-store price variation.
Unlike our past surveys, we found little store-to-store price variation among surveyed Stop & Shop and Shaw’s locations (previous surveys found prices at one Stop & Shop store were 13 percent lower than at another of the chain’s stores, and prices at one Shaw’s store we checked were about five percent lower than another).
Surveyed stores for Star Market, Roche Bros., Donelan’s Supermarkets, and Sudbury Farms had higher prices than Stop & Shop and Shaw’s.
Star’s prices were about five percent higher than average prices at Stop & Shop and Shaw’s; Roche Bros. about 12 percent higher; Donelan’s about 14 percent higher; and Sudbury Farms about 19 percent higher.
On the quality side, Shaw’s, Star Market, Stop & Shop, and Walmart received relatively poor ratings.
All four of these chains rated near the bottom of the list for “quality of fresh produce,” “quality of meats,” and “overall quality.” For overall quality, Walmart was rated “superior” by only 16 percent of its surveyed customers, Shaw’s by only 35 percent, Stop & Shop by 37 percent, and Star Market by 44 percent. (While we received too few ratings for Target to report scores, it also receives low scores in the other metro areas where Checkbook is published.)
In contrast, raters’ favorite Wegmans and Roche Bros., Sudbury Farms, Whole Foods, and a few others received very high ratings.
All were rated “superior” overall by at least 80 percent of their surveyed customers.
Price leaders Hannaford and Market Basket received higher-than-average scores on our customer survey.
DeMoulas Market Basket was rated “superior” overall by a respectable 73 percent of its surveyed customers and Hannaford by 72 percent—proving it is possible for stores not named “Wegmans” to offer both reasonable prices and high-quality service.
Whole Foods Market had the highest prices.
Whole Foods’ prices were 48 percent higher than the average prices we found at the Shaw’s and Stop & Shop stores we checked—for the limited number of comparable items available at each chain. On the other hand, Whole Foods consistently receives very high scores on quality of fresh produce and meat, which account for many of the items we could compare between Whole Foods and the other chains.
When we last examined the prices of organic food, Whole Foods’ prices were only slightly higher than average. See our article Buying Organic Food for more advice and information.
You can save by substituting store brands and generic products for national brands.
When we substituted cheaper generic and store brands for about one-sixth of the items in our price-shopping market basket at Stop & Shop and Shaw’s, the total cost of the full market basket dropped by about four percent.