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September 4, 2017

Did You Fall for the Whole Foods Price Cuts Hype?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:05 am

It seems like virtually every newspaper and media outlet carried stories at the end of August breathlessly touting price cuts at Whole Foods now that Amazon has taken over the high-priced chain.

Whole Foods Headlines

One would think with such headlines that everything in the store was now at bargain basement prices. Nothing could be further from the truth. All these reporters were buying what Amazon was selling in their press release without checking the true extent of the price cuts and how that would affect the average shopper.

MrConsumer made a visit to the medium size Whole Foods in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood two days before the price drop and again twice last week afterwards. Rather than finding large signs all over the store proclaiming that thousands of items had been cut in price, it appeared that very little had changed.


365 Tomato sauce

On his third store visit, the day after the price drops, MrConsumer went up and down every aisle, electronic clicker in hand, trying to count every item bearing the Whole Foods + Amazon orange logo signaling a new lower price. The final count: only 49 items were cut in price. Put another way, Amazon did not reduce the price of 99.5% of the estimated 10,000 items carried by the average Whole Foods store. A Whole Foods spokesperson confirmed the number of items carried, but refused to discuss the list of affected products or even just the number of items reduced.

Some of these products were accounted for multiple times in the overall tally, like the seven flavors of one brand of tomato sauce, the four varieties of one brand of eggs, and the over half a dozen sizes of bottled water. Together, those three products alone accounted for nearly 40 percent of all the price reductions.

Now, were there legitimate and sizable price reductions? Absolutely. Atlantic salmon went from $12.99 a pound to $9.99, and fancy schmancy ground beef in a cryovac package dropped from $8.99 to $6.99 a pound. Are these now bargains? Not exactly. Are more price reductions coming? They say so.

Salmon before/after

Amazon and Whole Foods were masterful at getting the media to promote an almost nonexistent price drop, and in turn at helping them counteract the supermarket’s high-price image. The reality is that the average shopper will barely notice any savings in their weekly grocery bill at least in the short-run.

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  1. Okay so Whole Paycheck is now more like 3/4 paycheck, but at least some of the items have gotten cut and over the next few months more products will get a cut in price.

    I was not expecting them to go down to wal-mart pricing on food items.

    Comment by Richard — September 4, 2017 @ 10:15 am
  2. Edgar replies: Richard, they would have to cut 2,500 prices not merely 49 to be renamed “3/4 paycheck”.

    Comment by Edgar (aka MrConsumer) — September 4, 2017 @ 10:17 am
  3. The press release clearly states, ” selection of best-selling grocery staples”.

    Comment by maria wesley — September 4, 2017 @ 11:47 am
  4. Seems to me that the majority of people that shop at ‘Whole Foods’ do not worry about the cost.

    Comment by gert — September 4, 2017 @ 1:58 pm
  5. I don’t think Whole Foods shoppers were too concerned about cost. What I am more worried about is Amazon using Whole Foods to undercut the grocery retail market to make margins even lower than they already are.

    Price cuts are great for consumers in the short term, but not at the expense of good competition in the long term.

    Comment by Wayne — September 4, 2017 @ 11:03 pm
  6. I expect to pay more for organic products. The problem with Whole Foods is that *everything* in the store, even non organic stuff, is overpriced. Although you can get cheaper organic produce elsewhere, like Trader Joe’s (strawberries) and even Stop and Shop (tomatoes).

    I shop at all the above stores, and get my eggs and most of my meat from a local farm. If you do all your grocery and sundries shopping at one store you are bound to get ripped off on many items.

    Comment by Bob C. — September 5, 2017 @ 6:32 am
  7. That doesn’t look like the same farmed fish. By color the old version appears to have more dye resulting in a more red product (but that could be the camera effect) but the label on the old says “Farm Location Kvarey Island Norway” where the new says something like “Product of Wassac…”

    Cost savings could be made by substituting a lower priced product?

    Comment by Iolaire McFadden — September 5, 2017 @ 10:38 am
  8. The farmed fish isn’t worth a dime anyway. You can search the term “farmed fish not healthy” on Duck duck go if you wish.

    Comment by Mitch — September 5, 2017 @ 8:57 pm
  9. I went to my local Whole Foods yesterday and didn’t see any of the new “lower price” Amazon price signs. I saw several orange “sale” signs but not really that many. And the prices seem to be the same as usual. What a come-on.

    Comment by Emily — September 10, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

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