Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg

Whole Foods' Pricey Thanksgiving Dinner Reinforces High-Cost Image

  • Holiday feast costs 22% more at Whole Foods than Trader Joe's
  • Bloomberg Intelligence study included turkey, stuffing, apples

Whole Foods Market Inc. may lose ground in its effort to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image this Thanksgiving.

A group of 20 common items used in the holiday feast was priced at $87.91 at Whole Foods versus $72.28 at Trader Joe’s, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence study. The 22 percent higher cost at Whole Foods is bigger than the 0.9 percent gap it had with Trader Joe’s on a similar basket of items last year. Still, both chains were less expensive than Fresh Market Inc., where the Thanksgiving meal cost $101.83.

The cost of a Thanksgiving dinner at selected supermarkets.

The study shows Whole Foods has more work to do if it wants to better compete with mainstream grocers, which are increasingly selling natural and organic goods. The chain also has been trying out a loyalty program and delivery service in some markets, but those efforts have yet to gain traction. Whole Foods said earlier this month that same-store sales fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, fueling concerns that its days as a growth company are over.

"Whole Foods has to remain diligent that they stay within that tolerance level of what people are expecting in terms of value for price," said Jennifer Bartashus, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst who led the study.

Pricing Progress

While Whole Foods hasn’t gotten rid of its image as an expensive market, it’s making some progress. Green beans, garlic and cream of mushroom soup were cheaper at Whole Foods than at Trader Joe’s. However, if Whole Foods shoppers opt for an organic turkey, the Thanksgiving dinner basket costs $107.52.

The study, which also included items such as eggs, stuffing, apples and cranberries, was conducted on Nov. 18 at grocery stores in New Jersey.

Whole Foods will open a new grocery chain aimed at millennials next year. The stores, dubbed 365 by Whole Foods Market, are focused on technology, value and convenience. The company has said the 365 locations will have a "modern, streamlined design with innovative technology and a carefully curated product mix."

Whole Foods is "trying to communicate that message of quality, high standards and, increasingly, a bit more affordability," Bartashus said. "For people to whom those things are important, it’s a pretty decent value proposition."

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