Survey ranks grocery chains for quality, prices

WASHINGTON — There’s a significant spread between prices at Safeway and Giant for the first time in decades, according to the latest survey by Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

“Giant’s prices were about 7 percent lower than Safeway’s,” says Checkbook Executive Editor Kevin Brasler. “Seven percent in the world of supermarkets is a big difference.”

In the past, prices at two of the area’s dominant chains have been between 2 and 3 percentage points of each other.

With price points in between Safeway and Giant, Harris Teeter gets much higher rankings than those stores for quality of fresh produce, quality of meats and overall quality.

Another standout in this year’s survey is Wegmans, for both quality and price.

Ninety-four percent of consumers rated Wegmans “superior” overall, putting it at No. 1 among all the chains in the survey for quality. Average prices at Wegmans are about 11 percent lower than average prices at Safeway.

The most expensive chain in the survey was Whole Foods Market, which ranked fairly high for quality.

 Customer ratings for quality as “superior” overall:

  • Wegmans: 94 percent
  • Whole Foods Market: 77 percent
  • Balduci’s: 77 percent
  • Harris Teeter: 73 percent
  • Giant: 39 percent
  • Food Lion: 38 percent
  • Shopper’s Food Warehouse: 38 percent
  • Safeway: 34 percent
  • Target: 29 percent
  • Walmart: 26 percent

Compared to average prices at Giant and Safeway:

  • Walmart (two stores): 17 percent and 12 percent lower
  • Food Lion: 9 percent lower
  • SuperTarget: 7 percent lower

Trader Joe’s tends to carry store brands versus national-brand items. But comparing fresh produce, meats, dairy items and Trader Joe’s store brands with comparable items from Giant and Safeway in the standard survey, Checkbook finds Trader Joe’s overall prices are about 4 percent higher.

Checkbook no longer considers Shoppers Food Warehouse a “low-cost” chain, saying its average prices are now about the same as the Giant/Safeway average.

Looking for rock bottom prices? Brasler says prices at Aldi are almost half what Safeway charges.

“Almost half is a lot — I mean even Costco is not almost half,” Brasler says.

Some consumers don’t like Aldi stores because they don’t carry all products and few national name brands.

“You may not like their off-brand of Cheerios or whatever it is,” Brasler concedes. “It’s something probably worth checking out though, because the savings are unreal.”

Washington Consumers’ Checkbook is providing readers a look at the full ratings for a limited time.

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