Supermarket Showdown V

shoprite albany exterior

Game changer?

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Yes, that grand tradition -- the Supermarket Showdown -- has returned. As we have for the past (gulp) four years, we price checked a basket of items across the local supermarket chains.

New this year: ShopRite.

Can it unseat Walmart, the four-time defending champ? And how have the other two players reacted to its arrival?

Results from: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 (when looking at past years, please note the laundry detergent adjustment explained below)

Lowest prices have a green background.
Asterisks indicate which prices were marked as sale prices. For Price Chopper that includes the price you'd pay with an AdvantEdge card. For ShopRite it includes it's "Price Club" card. And for Hannaford that includes the "This Weekly Only" prices.

As in past years, we did our best to match prices against the same basket of 40 products. In some cases the matches aren't perfect.

Discrepancies and other important notes are below.

Fine print: Prices were collected on May 22, 2012 at the Price Chopper in Albany on Central Ave, Walmart on Washington Ave Ext, Hannaford in Albany on Central Ave, at ShopRite in Albany on Central Ave. We tried our best to compare similar items. Some items -- such as deli meat or sandwich bread -- couldn't necessarily be matched for quality. You could probably pick a different basket with different results. Different locations may also yield different results. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

A list of the brands and sizes we checked this year (pdf).

An spreadsheet file of this year's data (xls).


Shampoo: Hannaford didn't have the 750 ml size of PertPlus, so we used a prorated price based on a larger 40 oz bottle. Prorating from a smaller bottle would have resulted in a higher price.

Dog food: The Pedigree adult dog food now comes in 17-pound bags, instead of the 20-pound bags in previous years.

Cookies: Oreos now come in 15.5 oz bag, instead of a 16.6 oz bag in 2011. They came in an 18 oz bag in 2010.

Frozen vegetables: The Price Chopper price is a prorated price based on a 4-pound bag, which might have resulted in lower price.

Sandwich bread: Store brand whole wheat sandwich bread varies in size -- from 20 oz (example: Walmart) to 16 oz (example: ShopRite).

Milk: The Price Chopper price is for 1% milk, not skim.

Crackers: Triscuits now come in a 9 oz box, instead of a 9.5 oz box in 2011.

A few notes and observations

+ The basket for each store increased in price this year -- though it was a small increase at Price Chopper and Hannaford. Walmart was up more than 5 percent. (Obviously, we can't do a year-to-year for ShopRite.)

+ Buying this basket at Price Chopper would earn you a 10 cent/gallon gas discount at Sunoco, so adjust accordingly if you're so inclined. (The discount would have 30 cents/gallon under the old formula. It changed recently.)

+ ShopRite's overall basket didn't end up shockingly low or anything -- it's a bit more than Hannaford. But a few of its item prices were ridiculously low. Example: a container of Haagen Dazs for $2.27 is crazy cheap -- more than a dollar cheaper than anywhere else. It's per-pound price for chicken -- $1.77 (for a 2-pound pack) -- was also crazy low. It will be interesting to see if it continues what we're guessing is a loss-leader strategy -- or if this is just "Hey, we're new, check us out" pricing.

+ Hannaford is now the closest any of the tracked stores has ever come to matching Walmart's basket price during the last five years -- the difference this year is 5.9 percent. The previous smallest difference was 6.7 percent (Hannaford 2009).

+ As in years past, Price Chopper and Hannaford continued to stick with the x.99 pricing strategy. It looks like ShopRite generally uses that strategy, too. Walmart continues to not seemingly care about x.99.

+ In 2011, the price of butter was up about 35 percent on average compared to the year before. This year: it's down more than 25 percent.

+ If this basket represented your weekly shopping (it's probably too big, and too heavy on items such as laundry detergent), here's the difference in how much you'd spend per week and per year:

The bottom line

No surprise, Walmart is still the cheapest, but Hannaford has narrowed the gap. ShopRite is competitive with Hannaford and Price Chopper -- and, at least for now, has a few crazy low prices. Price Chopper continues to be the most expensive for this basket.

Supermarket Week 2012:
+ Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U
+ Annoyed in aisle 5
+ When will Trader Joe's open -- a prediction pool


Just a bit confused, but Greg being the table wiz that he is, I probably missed it: does your year-to-year comparison takes good old inflation into account? It's about 3% on food & beverage. If not, then a 0.79% or 0.59% increase from 2011 to 2012 is actually... a decrease, right? (Price Chopper's $175.44 in 2012 would be $170.17 in 2011 vs. your recorded $174.05 in 2011, etc.)

@-S: That's a good point. The year-to-year comparisons don't account for inflation. But I should be able to dig up that data relatively easily.

I think it's probably correct to conclude that Price Chopper and Hannaford basically didn't increase the price of the basket this year compared to 2011. Whether that's a decrease when considering inflation -- that's a good question. Inflation generally has not been very strong over the last few years -- and neither has income growth. I'll look it up. (For what it's worth, prices fell at all three stores in 2010.)

It's interesting to see that PC and Hannaford have essentially held the line over the last year, but Walmart is up five percent. I sometimes wonder if Walmart has maxed out how much it can squeeze prices using its supply chain management and labor practices. At some point, stuff can't get any cheaper.

Yet again, Hannaford kicks butt and takes names -- Walmart's stores are just plain unpleasant to shop in (so I don't mind spending a bit more for a nicer shopping experience), ShopRite requires me to get a loyalty card and remember to bring it with me, and Price Chopper, well, they're still a rip-off, no shocker there.

"oh Price Chopper is such a good corporate neighbor" blah blah..yeah, good at gouging their neighbors. I'm loving getting their frantic, panicky mailers with LOW LOW prices and deals that can't be beat. I forget who it was that said "competition is great, unless it's competing with you"!
Staying loyal to my trusty Hannaford.

Your list of brands and sizes is *not* a .pdf file; it's a Microsoft Word .doc file. I'd really prefer the .pdf

Editors: It just got exported to wrong format. The correct file format is there now. Blame Greg.

You failed to mention the new Shop at Home services and other services that could tip the scales for shoppers. I've used Shop Rite's Shop at Home service since their first store opened in Niskayuna and I now use the one in Albany since it's closer to me. Having access to pretty much the entire inventory, specifying whether you want bananas that are all yellow, some yellow, you get the point, and the calls from your personal shopper when there's a question or something is out of stock is huge. Shop Rite's pharmacy also delivers.

And, yes, I'm a Shop Rite fan ever since Hannaford completely messed up the organization of their stores. You don't need to have your price plus club card with you, just give them your phone number and you're good to go.

Online Shopper: We had a long post earlier this week comparing the delivery services from both ShopRite and Price Chopper:

With high prices and dirty stores why would anyone shop at Chopper?

Re: $x.99 pricing, I thought Walmart did that to track which items were on sale. Ending in a 6 means it's the regular price, another digit means it's on sale, yet another digit means it's clearance, or seasonal, etc.

Lu - Because they hate old churches?

I've never been in a dirty price chopper, and I've been shopping there since I was a child, at the adorable mini-chopper at the late Tri-County Mall in Baldwinsville, NY. Maybe i need to get out more.

Laurie Bird -

Youve NEVER (!?!?) been in a dirty Price Chopper? Good for you. That's not sarcasm - thats jealousy. If you live in the immediate Capital Region, allow yourself to wander into such stores as the Delaware Ave one, the Madison Ave. one, the Eastern Ave store, the Watervliet store....and to be honest, the Latham one? (Which isnt the cleanest store around, despite being one of their busiest...)

And all this so we can pay an extra grand a year to them? And all in the name of "Community"?

Re: $x.99 pricing....

It's pretty well known psychological ploy by retailers that 'odd' prices are more likely to be perceived as deals by consumers than round or .99 prices. So a price of $2.87 will generate higher sales than $2.99, disproportionately more than the 12 cent difference might suggest.

Also, Wal Mart is well known for keeping their markup at a strict 30% or less (note: that number comes from their traditional retail business, not necessarily groceries which may have a lower markup for all I know). They refuse to round up to the nearest $x.99 like most other stores.

What? No comparison of organic products? This is useless to me as I wouldn't buy any of these products anyway. And I sure as hell am not shopping at that corporate mess called Walmart.

Re: if you want to take the gas card into account:
So at 10 cents a gallon saving, on a car with a 20 gallon tank means I get get $2 back and only spend an extra $18 to shop at Price Choppers (Wait..... huh?). I don't think they are dirty but they may have been "chopping" with wrong thing.

Thanks for doing this. This article is one of the most intersting posts (to me anyway) every year. And it's not just because I tell people all the time how expensive Price Chopper is, but that certainly doesn't hurt.

what I found interesting is the "shrinkage" in the product. If you bought the same items in 2010 you'd be using MORE bags to bring them home in! your examples were oreos and dog food but the packaging for mayo, coffee (where CAN you get a prepackaged POUND of coffee), and I swear Kraft Cheese in the bricks have all shrunk. I bought Kraft Cracker barrell last week and I remember remarking to the check out person - a slice of this cheese used to fit exactly on a saltine - have they downsized too?

what struck me most about this comparison, to be honest with you, is that packages of oreos keep getting SMALLER!! but remain the same price!! where is the outrage at this?
seriously though, i shopt at price chopper for convenience factor (close to my home) but also because i like the store (it's the pretty slingerlands one) and when i shop the sales, take advantage of their coupon policy, i get really good deals. plus, i don't have to set foot in walmart, which is a huge perk for me.

I've commented elsewhere about my loyalty to Price Chopper, so it's time to say it here, too. :-)

If you're going for the lowest possible grocery bill without bothering to use coupons or stock up on non-perishables when they're on sale, sure, Walmart is always going to win at that game. If you care about corporate responsibility, Walmart will always lose, in my eyes.

Smart shoppers can use the weekly ads for their favorite store and save money regardless of which grocer it is. With few exceptions, I have a rule of not buying things unless they are on some kind of deal. As such, I've always found Hannaford to be more expensive for the things I buy and the way I shop. I'd never pay the full price on the items where Price Chopper lost the savings game big in this contest...Laundry detergent, shampoo, and toothpaste are the sort of things you wait to buy when they're on sale and you have a coupon. Wherever you shop.

There's also the quality of the shopping experience. Walmart customer service sucks. It didn't used to be that way, but that was years ago before Sam Walton died. I've been to the Shop Rite in Niskayuna, and the whole store made me claustrophobic. Only the front page of their ad was filled with deals that would actually save me not worth the trip. I didn't make a second trip there. Maybe I'm spoiled with the Clifton Park Price Chopper, but it's always clean, the aisles aren't smushed together, and the people are friendly. That matters to me.

I'm glad to see Hannaford do so well here. Hannaford has long been my grocery store of choice in the Capital Region since moving here around '99 (before Grand Useless left). Chopper always costs me time and money and the people who work there treat you like an inconvenience. While the staff at Shop Rite are more friendly than Chopper (me and another 30 something gal one recent early morning received a very saucy "good morning ladies" from a young produce stocker), their prices and selection aren't enough to get my weekly business.

I would have to agree with Christina Gleason. I live by RPI in Troy and shop at the Price Chopper up Hoosick Street in Brunswick. It's always clean, not cramped, and has better coupons and deals. Other Price Choppers are extremely dirty and I would not step foot in there... but the one in Brunswick is actually pretty nice. Compared to other grocery stores near Troy, it is by far the nicest in my opinion.

I would also agree with Christina. Your analysis really favors one shopping style - that of buying whatever you need without regard to sales. So, of course Walmart and Hannaford are going to win out. If you had instead taken the lowest price within, say, a month's time, I suspect you'd find that Price Chopper and Shop Rite would do much better. They cater to a different style of shopping. I tend to do very well at Price Chopper because I pay attention to the sales and use a few coupons. But, if I don't have time to do that, I find I do better at Hannaford. So, your analysis has a definite bias in it.

I can save more at Price Chopper than this list suggests by shopping sales and using coupons (esp. since they double up to .99). That allows me to get a decent price and avoid Wal Mart. I would also like if organic options were added to the list. And I would suggest adding Target next year too, since they added the expanded grocery section, I think you can get everything on the list there now.

I am glad that Christina commented, because this article irritated me. I was for years a loyal Walmart shopper until I learned how to properly save money with coupons and wait til my products went on sale. The first thing that caught my eye was the price of the chicken breast listed - right now Price Chopper has price chopped to $1.99/lb - which is WAY less than the price listed. Of course, you need to buy more than just one pound - but if you are feeding a family of more than 1 or 2 - you wouldnt buy 1 pound anyways. You wont find a discount like that at Walmart.
Knowing when to buy products helps to save a ton of money - buying just to buy each week.. ends up costing more any where you shop. Since I became a Price Chopper shopper 2 years ago...I have saved a ton of $ and I will never go back to exclusive walmart shopping.
Why don't you rewrite this article when using coupons etc and see which store rates the best?

Thinking of what stores should be covered for next year's survey, I don't care about Walmart or Target since I never shop at either - for anything. However, if you plan to include Trader Joe's in the next survey, then you should definitely also include Aldi's -- same ownership, same store brand philosophy, different target audience, more stores locally, and probably cheaper for a standard grocery basket.

Quick math means that the price difference between Hannaford and ShopRite is pretty negligible (~1%), so I you don't follow the sales it's a toss-up. If you're a bargain hunter or couponer, ShopRite could gain a big edge with coupon doubling etc.

No Fresh Market, I see. Can't blame you since I'm sure this takes a ton of work. Potentially Fresh Market, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods should all be reviewed next year! Call in the troops!

I have to agree with Jessica R. that there will be some holes in this survey come next year when Whole Foods and Trader Joes move in, and am especially dismayed by the fact that Honest Weight Food COOP is not included. Granted, they do not sell everything on your selected list, and granted, this exercise is more about the cheapest goods rather than quality, but it would be nice to see a companion article highlighting the comparative costs of purchasing natural/organic food in the Capital Region. I think many people will be surprised at how affordable natural/organic foods can be against their less quality counterparts, and furthermore, that you can have a pretty comparative shopping bill at Honest Weight, to that of Hannaford or Price Chopper (I often ended up with higher shopping bills at Hannaford, when I must shop there in a pinch, than I do at HWFC). Maybe, I'll have to submit my own results on HWFC to the editors (with some miner edits, like natural locally produced Cola verse Coke) for some guidance next year. The more information we have the better :)

Let me begin by stating that I shop exclusively at Hannaford. I am aware of the "rollbacks" available on certain sundries at Walmart. Fortunately these bargains are seldom on items that I buy. I find Walmart is no cleaner than Price Chopper and the produce is seemingly on its last breath. The shopping experience at Walmart is more festive if you are looking to piece together a photo montage to forward. Perhaps beleaguering or provoking are more appropriate terms. Maybe it is just me but I don't like to buy my food where I can also grab a tarp, rifle, underwear, and a laptop. As with all things, you get what you pay for. Based on this list I could save approximately $5 shopping at Walmart. That said, it is 14 miles round trip to and from Walmart for me and 30 minutes of driving. This is about $2 in fuel. Hannaford is 12 minutes round trip and 5 miles. In Hannaford I am greeted with a smile and a hello at the register, my groceries are bagged quite well, and I don't have to drive all the way to Washington Avenue Extension. In conclusion, it will take more than $1 on toothpaste to change my mind.

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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