Amazon closed on Whole Foods today in a $13.7 billion deal and began slashing the chain’s grocery prices this morning as a result. While the deal has much larger implications for Amazon, the goal with the price cuts — including those on many of its organic items — is to bring Whole Foods more in line with rival stores. But even with Amazon willing to slim its margins on Whole Foods’ groceries, can it really expect to compete with its top competitor Walmart when it comes to affordable groceries?
Today, Walmart’s brand is associated with a focus on low prices, while people tend to joke that Whole Foods should be called “whole paycheck,” because that’s what it takes to shop there.
Amazon had announced Whole Foods price cuts on things like bananas, organic avocados, organic large brown eggs, organic responsibly farmed salmon and tilapia, organic baby kale and baby lettuce, animal-welfare-rated 85 percent lean ground beef, creamy and crunchy almond butter, organic Gala and Fuji apples, organic rotisserie chicken, 365 Everyday Value organic butter and other items. As it turned out, it had already begun discounting other grocery staples today, including milk and cheese.
See our gallery of price comparisons.
To find out how the newly discounted Whole Foods groceries compared to Walmart, we shopped the same selection at two stores in the same region on the East Coast around the same time. This is by no means a definitive answer to the question at hand, of course — it’s too early for that — but rather more of a snapshot of how prices compare on Day One. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Walmart very quickly respond with price cuts of its own.
To be clear, we only looked at the same products that just received price cuts at Whole Foods today. Walmart, overall, may continue be more affordable — especially as you fill your cart with generics that aren’t organic, responsibly farmed, gluten-free and so on.
According to the comparison shopping results, Walmart was often cheaper. But that was not always the case.
As of today’s price cuts, Whole Foods is beating Walmart on price for things like organic milk, almond butter, organic pasta sauce and organic bananas, for example. At times, those “beats” were just pennies, other times they were a lot more.
That said, where Walmart beat, it sometimes did so by a wide margin, too. It had the cheaper organic eggs, ribeye steaks, 12-packs of water and salmon.
But it also didn’t have as full a selection of organic items to choose from, which limited the possible comparisons. (Of course, inventory will vary by store, so your mileage may vary.)
This Walmart didn’t have organic avocados, organic apples, organic baby kale salad mix, organic almond milk or organic store-brand butter or cheese. Whole Foods did, and it made those items cheaper today.
In other words, if buying organic is important to you, Whole Foods may be the better choice, even if prices are higher — that’s why people starting shopping there to begin with, after all.