Trader Joe’s earns relatively high accolades from its customers for our survey question on “overall quality”—73 percent rated it “superior.” That’s a more favorable score than what customers gave several other area chains, including Whole Foods. But since the market basket we used for our price survey 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 18 percent lower than the average prices we found at surveyed area stores. Its prices were about 19 percent lower than Safeway’s and about five percent lower than Target’s.
  • For produce, Trader Joe’s prices were 21 percent lower than the average prices at all surveyed stores.
  • For meat, Trader Joe’s prices were about 17 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.