Trader Joe’s earns relatively high accolades from its customers for our survey question on “overall quality”—71 percent rated it “superior.” That’s a more favorable score than what customers gave several other large area chains, and is about equal to Whole Foods’s score. But since the market basket we used for our price survey is largely consists of national-brand products, and since Trader Joe’s offers mainly its own brands, we couldn’t compare its prices using our standard price survey. Instead, we had to shop Trader Joe’s using a special survey that included the same fresh produce, meats, and dairy items included in our standard survey, comparing the national-brand items on our list with the prices of Trader Joe’s store brands. (When comparing prices, we used per-unit pricing—for example, price per ounce.)

The figure below shows the results of these comparisons:

  • Overall, Trader Joe’s prices were 16 percent lower than the average prices we found at surveyed area stores; its prices were about 21 percent lower than QFC’s, 19 percent lower than Safeway’s, 12 percent lower than Target’s, seven percent lower than Fred Meyer’s, five percent higher than Walmart’s, and 15 percent higher than WinCo’s.
  • For produce, Trader Joe’s prices were 24 percent lower than the average prices at all surveyed stores.
  • For meat, Trader Joe’s prices were about eight percent lower than average.

Unfortunately, many Trader Joe’s shoppers will also have to shop at conventional supermarkets: It carried fewer than half of the items in our market basket.