Wegmans, Publix and Trader Joe’s Dominate Ratings

Wegmans, Publix and Trader Joe’s Dominate Ratings

DSCN0467+1In Consumer Reports’ new supermarket survey, Wegmans, Publix and Trader Joe’s remain at the top of the ratings of 68 of stores nationwide. Also earning high overall satisfaction scores were Fareway Stores, Market Basket (Northeast), Costco and Raley’s. Once again Walmart Supercenter landed at the bottom, along with A&P and Waldbaums, two smaller regional chains.

“Once upon a time, low prices, checkout speed and variety were attributes that mattered most to supermarket shoppers,” Tod Marks, senior project editor at Consumer Reports, said in a press release. “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. As a result, consumers have become increasingly savvy label readers, wary of preservatives, chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients and the demand for minimally processed foods and shorter ingredients lists has risen significantly. And supermarkets are taking seriously their new role in the health of their customers. Consumer Reports found that 95 percent of chains have a registered dietician on staff to assist with merchandising and marketing decisions. And, more than 75 percent of stores say they carry more locally grown or made goods than they did in 2012.

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 and at www.ConsumerReports.org. The feature also decodes common terms such as “fresh,” “natural” and more.

Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed 62,917 subscribers about overall satisfaction with their supermarket shopping experiences based on 111,208 visits between March 2013 and July 2014. The top-rated supermarkets also received high scores for overall freshness — quality of produce, meats, poultry, bakery items and store-prepared foods as well as store quality, which included scores for staff courtesy and store cleanliness. Walmart Supercenter, consistently one of Consumer Reports’ lowest-rated grocers since 2005, earned low marks in every category other than price.

In addition to traditional characteristics such as 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 around 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.

Just three of the chains — Wegmans and national chains The Fresh Market and Whole Foods — earned stellar produce scores. Seventeen were below average. Eighteen retailers received low scores for produce variety, notably 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.  And, to determine the real-world 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.