Grocery Store Wars

No grocery store shocker: Study shows Whole Foods is pricier than H-E-B — a Whole Paycheck confirmation?

No grocery store shocker: Study shows Whole Foods is more expensive

News_Gift Guide 2009_Foodie Experiences_Whole Foods
New research shows that shopping at Whole Foods Market may be costing you much more than buying the exact same items from a regional grocery chain. Photo by Chris Conyers
H-E-B Montrose Market, grocery store, January 2013
Groceries from San Antonio-based chain H-E-B were found to cost much less than the same groceries from Whole Foods. Photo courtesy of H-E-B
News_Gift Guide 2009_Foodie Experiences_Whole Foods
H-E-B Montrose Market, grocery store, January 2013

While it's common knowledge that shopping at Whole Foods Market — jokingly referred to as "Whole Paycheck" — isn't exactly ideal for those on a tight budget, a new survey shows just how much more customers are paying to shop there as opposed to heading to their regional grocery store.

Wolfe Research, a New York investment firm, recently conducted a study which compared the cost of groceries from Whole Foods to the exact same items from regional grocery stores H-E-B in Houston, Mariano's in Chicago and Wegmans in Washington, D.C.

According to Wolfe, the lowest prices were found at H-E-B where the grocery total was $220. In comparison, the same groceries from Whole Foods cost a total of $255. The other two regional grocery stores in Chicago and Washington, D.C. also offered groceries for much less than Whole Foods, averaging around $30 in savings.

 Whole Foods is testing a shopping rewards program, even though the company has resisted such an initiative for more than 30 years. 

In a smaller survey where researchers bought organic and non-organic produce items, H-E-B still had a lower total of $23 whereas at Whole Foods those items added up to $29.

In the most recent quarter, Whole Foods reported that "same-store sales" — referring to sales at stores open at least a year — has increased by 3.9 percent. This percentage is significantly lower than the 8 percent quarterly increases the national grocery chain has experienced before. With prices reportedly increasing by 2 percent this quarter, shoppers may start seeing higher totals at the register. Not only that, but the company's stock price has dropped 40 percent since last October.

"The emergence of the multi-pronged competitive attack on Whole Foods by generally lower-priced competitors suggests to us that Whole Foods' business model faces a very real, clear and present danger," Wolfe analysts wrote in a note last week, according to the Huffington Post.

As a result of its less-than-stellar performance as of late, Whole Foods is testing a shopping rewards program, even though the company has resisted such an initiative for more than 30 years, Bloomberg reports. Whole Foods is also hoping to combat poor sales with a national marketing and brand campaign — a company first — launching this fall.

Whole Foods has eight locations in the Greater Houston area and two more are on the way, including one in The Woodlands and a 55,000-square-foot store connected to BLVD Place on Post Oak set to open this fall.

H-E-B has 75 stores within 100 miles of central Houston in addition to Westheimer's Central Market.