The Whole Foods Price Myth

Now that my closest grocery store is a Whole Foods, I've been going there fairly regularly. People have asked "how can you afford it?" and "isn't it really expensive?" I think the answers to these questions depends on how we thinking about value and cost.

(from flickr user kalebdf)

The Undercover Economist wrote about this phenomenon in his book by the same name, pointing out that an identical basket of goods actually cost less at Whole Foods than it did at his local Safeway, but that a typical basket of goods cost more at Whole Foods. The reason is that the average shopper at a Safeway is more likely to opt for cheapo value brands and other inferior products, whereas shoppers at Whole Foods are more likely to go for premium stuff.

In which case, it's really not so much about the store as it is about the shopper.

Plus, Whole Foods's 365 brand is noticeably less expensive than some of the other stuff in the store and, in my opinion, actually quite good, unlike some other crummy store brands. Since I'm not particularly concerned about organic, so as long as it tastes good, it's a winner in my book.

Lastly, because it's relevant, I'm with Michael Pollan on this question of the Whole Foods boycott. If I stopped doing business with otherwise good companies because their executives were bad at keeping their mouths shut on politically contentious issues, it would probably just cause a new set of problems.


    My major problem with Whole Foods is that it's...well, organic. I'm a slow eater, more a nibbler and the organic aspect means the food goes bad very fast. Not a good match for me.

    On December 26, 2010 Anonymous said...


    yea, because we would rather have food that's injected with so many chemicals that it doesn't go bad for weeks. Seriously, what do you think causes half the diseases and cancers out there today. It's what they are doing to our food. Our food is being gene altered before it's even grown. Have you heard of "Round Up" ready food?
    watch it here--->


    @ anon

    lol I can't believe someones reason for not wanting to eat organic food would be it "degrades like real food".

    On September 02, 2011 Mary said...

    My in laws have eaten organic food (all vegetarian) for years and they have loads of health issues. However, my family and I have eaten nothing but cheap, store brand food full of preservatives and no one in my family has a single health issue.

    On May 26, 2012 Anonymous said...

    @Mary - Health issues between your in laws and your family have to do with much more than just what kind of food you eat. You can't say that just because you and your family are healthy and eat cheap food means that you and your families choice of consuming cheap food makes it better than organic food.