Wegmans, Publix, Trader Joe’s come out on top again in supermarket survey, while Walmart still among lowest rated
Also earning high overall satisfaction scores were Fareway Stores; Market Basket, located in the Northeast; Costco; and Raley’s.
As in past surveys, America’s largest grocer, Walmart Supercenter, landed at the bottom, along with A & P and Waldbaums, two smaller regional chains.
Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed nearly 63,000 subscribers about satisfaction with their supermarket shopping experiences based on more than 111,200 visits between March 2013 and July 2014.
Walmart Supercenter, consistently one of Consumer Reports’ lowest-rated grocers since 2005, earned low marks in every category other than price.
“Once upon a time, low prices, checkout speed, and variety were attributes that mattered most to supermarket shoppers,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor at Consumer Reports. “While these aspects are still critical, more and more consumers demand better fresh foods, more organics, and a greater variety of locally made and grown foods.”
Many Americans believe that good health starts with a good diet, Marks said. As a result, consumers have become increasingly savvy label readers and wary of preservatives, chemicals, and unpronounceable ingredients, he said. In addition, the demand for minimally processed foods and shorter ingredients lists has risen.
Supermarkets are taking seriously their new role in the health of their customers, Marks said. Consumer Reports found that 95 percent of chains have a registered dietician on staff to assist with merchandise and marketing decisions. And, more than 75 percent of stores say they carry more locally grown or made goods than they did in 2012.
In addition to service and cleanliness, Consumer Reports asked subscribers to rate their grocers on the selection of local produce and the price of organics at their stores. Only six in 10 were completely or very satisfied with the quality of their store’s produce, meat, and poultry offerings, according to Consumer Reports’ survey.
Only three of the chains – Wegmans and national chains The Fresh Market and Whole Foods – earned high produce scores. Seventeen were below average. Eighteen retailers received low scores for produce variety, including two big warehouse clubs – Sam’s Club, part of Walmart, and BJ’s Wholesale Club, in the East, – as well as Target and Target Supercenters.
Consumer Reports also asked subscribers about the prices of organic options available at their stores: Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Costco, and Sprouts Farmers Market received high marks.
To determine price differences, Consumer Reports conducted a study by shopping for 15 similar organic and conventional goods – including bananas, milk, and chicken – at eight national, regional, and online grocers.
The organic items cost 47 percent more, on average, although in some cases, some of the organic versions cost the same or less than the conventional ones. For example, organic Grade A maple syrup cost 11 percent less than the conventional version at Price Chopper.
For prepared food and bakery items, about 50 percent of respondents to the survey were highly satisfied with those offered by their store. Receiving high scores for prepared foods were Wegmans, Publix, Costco, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market. Pathmark and Waldbaum’s in the Northeast, and Aldi in the Eastern U.S., received low marks in that category.
The report, “America’s Best, Freshest Supermarkets,” which includes the complete ratings of grocery stores, is available in the May 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, at www.ConsumerReports.org, and at libraries.