The Country’s Cheapest Supermarkets – And Their Trade-Offs

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Shoppers will tolerate a lot of supermarket downsides for a single upside, according to Consumer Reports.

The magazine reports of its latest annual supermarket survey:

Competitive – if not downright cheap – prices are the cornerstone of shopper satisfaction with their primary supermarket. It matters more than cleanliness, how friendly and helpful the service is, the quality of the fresh foods, even how it takes to get through the checkout lane. High prices are also the reason why most shoppers abandon a particular store.

Fortunately, the cheapest stores also received some of the best ratings from consumers in the latest annual survey. They are:

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Fareway Stores (Midwest)
  • Market Basket (Northeast)
  • Costco
  • WinCo (West)

Some consumers prefer quality and variety over price, however.

Whole Foods Market, for example, is known for its array of fresh organic produce, meats, and lavish store-made meals. Prices are extremely high – among the highest of any chain, according to our survey – but the grocer’s demanding customers don’t mind the premium. The company’s business model is so successful that new stores are opening every few weeks.

The most expensive stores this year are:

  • The Fresh Market
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Harris-Teeter (South)
  • Brookshire’s (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas)
  • Giant Eagle (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland)
  • Randalls (Texas)
  • Jewel-Osco (Midwest)
  • Acme (Northeast)
  • Shaw’s (New England)
  • A&P (Northeast)
  • Waldbaum’s (Northeast)

Prices could increase for all consumers, though, if manufacturers are required to disclose genetically modified food, or GMO food, via labeling.

William Lesser, a professor in Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, reported last year that a New York-based family of four would pay an additional $500 per year because consumers and manufacturers would increasingly turn to non-GMO products that cost more to produce. (It is worth noting that some have disputed Lesser’s projections.)

As the Washington Post summarized the hot topic today:

A huge portion of commonly grown crops in the United States are modified this way, especially corn, soybeans and cotton. For the most part, genetically modified crops are considered safe. But the debate is over whether food products should be required to be labeled as genetically modified.

Last year, Vermont became the first state to require food makers to label products that include GMOs. The requirement goes into effect in July 2016. There are efforts in more than 20 states to require GMO labels. The debate is picking up steam on a national level as Congress debates a bill that would trump states’ decisions to mandate GMO labeling.

Which supermarket do you think is cheapest? And do you think paying low prices is worth the trade-offs you may face? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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