What’s cheaper, the new Brooklyn Whole Foods or nearby Union Market?

whole foods coffee

Whole Foods takes its coffee seriously. Photo by Melissa Kravitz

Whole Foods opened in Gowanus yesterday to stampede-like crowds and consumers happy to finally have somewhere to buy high-end groceries in Brooklyn. The first Brooklyn location is fully Brooklynified, complete with a actual vinyl record store, Roberta’s frozen pizzas and a functioning greenroof garden for hyperlocal local produce. They’re really trying to make nice too, offering $20 off any order over $100, until January 19 if you give your checkout person the code 47119.

We love a party as much as the next blog, but when it comes to actually buying food, can we even afford to walk into a place known as Whole Paycheck for its organic grassfed prices? In time-honored Brokelyn tradition, we did a comparison shop — between Whole Foods and  the closest yuppie grocery supplier, the Cobble Hill and Park Slope Union Markets. We shopped for a basket of basic staples: canned beans, olive oil, quinoa, and so on. Where possible, we compared the same brand, but when we couldn’t find it (as with soy milk, chicken broth, sandwich cream cookies) we reached for the cheapest option at the same size, which, at Whole Foods, was frequently the store brand. So how did Whole Foods and Union Market fare in our side-by-side price matchup? The results:

Shopping List:

Organic salad greens
Whole Foods: $2.00 (special)
Union Market  $3.99

Rao’s Tomato Sauce
Whole Foods: 2 for $10 (special)
Union Market :$7.99

Organic Boxed Mac & Cheese
Whole Foods: $1.29
Union Market 2.99

Talenti Gelato
Whole Foods: 2 for $7 (sale)
Union Market  $5.99

whole foods beans

But what about these beans? Whole Foods photo by Melissa Kravitz

Canned garbanzo, kidney, black beans:
Whole Foods: $0.89
Union Market $1.29

Generic chicken broth (32oz)
Whole Foods: 2 for $5 (organic)
Union Market $3.99 (Free range)

Half Gallon Apple Cider
Whole Foods: 2 for $5 (sale)
Union Market: $4.99

A Dozen Large Cage-free Eggs
Whole Foods: $3.89
Union Market: $4.99

Greek yogurt:
Whole Foods: 5 for $5
Union Market: $1.59

Kettle chips
Whole Foods brand: $1.99
Union Market (Kettle brand): $2.99

Olive bar
Whole Foods: $6.99/lb
Union Market $6.99/lb

Coffee Beans
Whole Foods: Starts at $8.99lb, up to $12.99
Union Market:  $8.99/lb

All Purpose Flour, 5lbs
Whole Foods (Organic and non-organic): $2.99
Union Market: $9.99 $6.99

Boxed Soy Milk
Organic Whole Foods Soy Milk (various flavors): $1.69
Union Market (Soy Dream): $2.99

Cookies
Whole Foods Chocolate Sandwich Cremes: $2.99
Union Market (Newman O’s): $3.99

whole foods seafood

It’s a little fishy how low the Whole Foods prices are at the moment. Photo by Melissa Kravitz

Fresh Salmon
Whole Foods: $9.99/lb (special) for responsibly farm-raised Norwegian salmon
Union Market $17.99/lb for farm-raised organic

Store brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 750 ml
Whole Foods: $7.99
Union Market $8.99

Bananas
Whole Foods: $0.79/lb (Fair Trade)
Union Market: $0.79/lb (Dole)

Avocados
Whole Foods: 2 for $5 (organic)
Union Market: 2 for $3 (Haas)

Cheerios
Whole Foods: $5.99, 14 oz. box
Union Market: $4.39, 14 oz. box

Ancient Harvest Quinoa
Whole Foods: $6.49
Union Market $5.99

Garlic powder
Whole Foods: $1.99
Union Market : $4.99

Whole Foods total: $83.95
Union Market total: $115.39

Whole Foods beats Union Market in almost every head-to-head bout. Some of it no doubt owes to Whole Foods’ huge scale, which a local chain like Union Market couldn’t possibly hope to compete with. Some of it is possibly due to Whole Foods’ attempting to make nice with lower prices when they first show up, like their offer to give you $20 off your bill if you spend $100, until this Sunday at 11pm.

But they’re also different stores. Union Market is geared more towards popping in while walking by, Whole Foods is more of a “load up the Suburban with all of the groceries” kind of store. If you’re going to go to Whole Foods, this is the cheapest possible time to go. When the honeymoon is over in a few months though, it couldn’t hurt to see if the prices found here have stayed the same.

15 Comment

  • Some of these comparisons aren’t really fair though… any of the Whole Foods store brands are obviously going to be cheaper than the name brand foods that Union Market carries.

    • I think its fair because the point is to show how much you have to spend at each store. My problem with UM is that if I go there to get some fish or a pork chop or something, but I also want a can of beans, I have to pay for some expensive organic brand when all I wanted is goya. So I end up having to go to UM for a few things and then going elsewhere to get the rest, whereas at WF I could get some splurgy items but then get the store brand beans or olive oil or whatever.

  • A BAG OF FLOUR WAS TEN BUCKS? Why isn’t anyone more horrified about that?

    • I’m totally horrified.

    • Because it is not 10. I just bought a bag of arrow mills organic flour at the Union Street store and it was 6.99. Whole foods is a massive national corporation and their buying power is well beyond the reach of a small local store. When a new store the size of Whole Foods opens they undercut all the other foods stores in the area to get bodies in the store. Their prices will go up in a few weeks and the huge deals will fade.

  • I am horrified by all of Union Markets prices – and dont give me the B.S. that they are small and cant buy in bulk to offer more reasonable prices. They are just ripping people off. They are sometimes 100% above grocery store prices – 100% markup is better than any market ordinarily gets.

  • hold up! I went to the new whole foods and they had non-organic avocados on sale 4 for $5! so your total should be even less. I was really pleasantly surprised at some of the prices for store brand items- like organic almond milk and English muffins.

  • Thank you for this! Can you do one for Fairway vs. Whole Foods?

  • Ummm… No comparison to the food coop? Come on guys… This is brokelyn.

  • Actually, Whole Foods consistently beats most supermarkets in NYC (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E1D6163EF933A25756C0A9609C8B63). It may not be true elsewhere, but here it is, especially if you don’t buy the store-brand stuff.

  • Just FYI, the $20 deal ended on January 16 (I went today and gave the code to the checker, who informed me that the promotion was already over).

  • As already mentioned, Whole Foods and Union Market are different kinds of stores. A fairer comparison would be between Whole Foods and Fairway, and for most of what we buy Fairway has a better selection and is cheaper.

  • So what’s up? Have the prices gone up at WFM? I think the newlywed stage is over. I wanna see a new comparison.