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Groceries price comparison finds that Whole Foods, Acme are the most expensive in Philly area

Wegmans prices, by contrast, were 3 percent below average while 90 percent of its customers called the store superior, making it the highest-rated in the region.

Packaged produce at the new Whole Foods on 2100 Pennsylvania Ave.
Packaged produce at the new Whole Foods on 2100 Pennsylvania Ave.Read moreRAYMOND W HOLMAN JR / For the Inquirer

Whole Foods still reigns as the most expensive grocery chain in the Delaware Valley. But Acme isn’t far behind.

Those were among the findings of a Consumers’ Checkbook study that compared prices inside 19 grocery stores in the Philadelphia region.

Checkbook found that Amazon has lowered prices at Whole Foods since buying the high-end grocery a year ago. But Whole Foods prices were still 21 percent higher than the average of all stores surveyed, driven in part by meat prices that were 36 percent above average.

“When Amazon purchased Whole Foods last year, many consumers were excited by the prospect of paying Amazon-like prices for Whole Foods-quality products. But we’re not there quite yet,” wrote Checkbook executive editor Kevin Brasler. The nonprofit group publishes survey information for consumers and is supported by subscriptions and donations.

While Amazon Prime members get special discounts at Whole Foods, including an extra 10 percent off items already on sale, Checkbook found Whole Foods offers fewer deals than other supermarkets. One store the group checked had 23 items on sale, a fraction of competitors', the group said.

Checkbook’s findings are consistent with earlier Whole Foods price checks by Morgan Stanley and Gordon Haskett Research. Those firms found Whole Foods had modestly lowered prices since the Amazon buyout.

Whole Foods did not return a request for comment.

Checkbook staff members used a market basket of 154 common items to compare prices, and surveyed thousands of its subscribers to assess the quality of products and service at the stores. The survey asked consumers if stores were “superior,” “adequate,” or “inferior.”

While Whole Foods scored poorly in the price department, it was among the highest-rated groceries, with 74 percent of its customers calling the store superior.

Wegmans appears to offer the best of both worlds. According to Checkbook, Wegmans prices were 3 percent below average, while 90 percent of its customers called the store superior, making it the highest-rated in the region.

The same can’t be said for Acme, one of the highest-priced and lowest-rated chains in the Checkbook study.

Acme’s prices were 12 percent above all-store average. Only Whole Foods was more expensive, and Whole Foods had lower produce prices.

What’s more, just 42 percent of Acme’s customers called the store superior, the second lowest among Delaware Valley chains.

“Unfortunately, without knowing what actual items this group purchased, or knowing for sure that all items purchased were exactly the same item at each competitor, we are unprepared to make any statement,” Acme spokesperson Dana Ward wrote in an email.

The lowest quality rating belonged to Walmart (16 percent), which also happened to have the cheapest prices (17 percent below average). Walmart did not return a request for comment.

Grocery Outlet had prices that were 17 percent lower than average too, but a much smaller selection. The chain had just 20 percent of the items in the Checkbook market basket.

For a family spending $200 per week, consumers could save $1,768 per year by grocery shopping at Walmart, based on the average prices at the surveyed stores. By contrast, Whole Foods customers would spend $2,184 more.

Checkbook also analyzed the growing grocery delivery market. The services allow customers to order groceries online and get their goods at their doorstep.

The convenience comes with a price. For example, a month’s worth of groceries that would cost $719 at a brick-and-mortar Walmart could cost $839 if delivered, according to Checkbook. Delivery from Instacart from Acme would cost $1,396 per month, up from $971 in store.

The estimates include delivery fees and a 10 percent tip.

“There are often big cost consequences to hiring someone to do your shopping,” Brasler wrote.

Inquirer and Daily News readers can read the full Checkbook grocery store study for free through Jan. 15.