After moving here from the Midwest seven years ago, there were two differences that immediately struck me. People are friendlier and grocery stores are completely different.
In the Midwest, I was used to expansive produce sections with reasonably priced fruits and vegetables. Produce is much more expensive in South Florida.
Since so many of us are cooking at home more often than dining out, supermarkets are seeing a large influx of business. Folks in our community are excited about the opening of a Sprouts grocery store in the old Kmart space on Oakland and 6th. With this increased focus on grocery shopping we thought it was time to see how the various supermarket chains compare.
A recent report by Consumer Reports indicated that consumers were quite brand loyal in their supermarket shopping habits. The article cited that, after price, produce quality and the variety of goods a store carried, were among the most important reasons members chose to shop where they do. Employee helpfulness and friendliness is also a key to the popularity of a grocery chain.
In comparing our supermarkets, we chose only grocery stores within a 10-minute drive of Wilton Manors. For the Publix store, we opted for the location on Sunrise and 15th, rather than Five-Points because it was larger and more indicative of a typical Publix store. Publix is an employee-owned, American supermarket chain headquartered in Lakeland, Florida. Founded in 1930 by George W. Jenkins, Publix is a private corporation that is wholly owned by present and past employees and members of the Jenkins family.
Aldi was founded by brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht in Germany in 1946. The brothers split the company in 1960 when they could not agree whether to sell cigarettes. Aldi later acquired Trader Joe's and continues to operate it as a separate entity from the parent company. Both chains offer pre-packaged meats and seafood but have no on-site delis or butcher departments. The stores are sometimes oddly laid out, but, once you learn the idiosyncrasies of a store, are easy to navigate. A new Aldi opened at Sunrise near Andrews at the end of September.
Winn-Dixie, is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida and operates approximately 500 stores in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi. The company has had its present name since 1955 and traces its roots back to 1925. The layout of the stores is typical for an American grocery store with wide aisles and products of similar type grouped together.
Whole Foods was founded in Austin, Texas, when four local businesspeople decided the natural foods industry was ready for a supermarket format. The original Whole Foods Market opened in 1980. As it grew, it acquired other natural food grocery store chains and is now a nation-wide chain and a subsidiary of the Amazon company.
The Fresh Market chain of gourmet supermarkets based in Greensboro, North Carolina, was founded by Ray and Beverly Berry on March 5, 1982. The concept was to develop a grocery store that brought back the feeling of open European-style markets. As such, the stores have a more limited range of stock available and the aisles are narrower and tend to meander. The company operates 176 stores in 24 states, located in the Southeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and recently the West Coast.
In the chart below we compare a typical grocery list of items suggested by Oprah.com, a mix of regular purchases and staples. If an item was on sale, we opted for that brand, otherwise we chose the lowest-priced similar item, whether house or national brand. If an item was a BOGO, we show the reduced price for one item. Package sizes were similar for the most part. When they were not, we adjusted the price to indicate what it would be if of an equivalent amount.
We then ranked the stores on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) in seven categories. It’s interesting to note that you don’t always get what you pay for. The store with the lowest amount paid for the grocery cart of items (Aldi) ended up with the highest score, while the costliest shopping trip (Fresh Market), ended up with the lowest score. What was most surprising is that Aldi also ended up with one of the highest scores in providing vegetarian and gluten-free shoppers the most options. Of course, since the Aldi store we visited is brand new, that might account for a bit of an advantage, but the basket totals don’t lie. It’s the best bargain in town, or at least within 10 minutes of Wilton Manors.