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05-13-2019 12:54 PM - edited 05-13-2019 06:36 PM
Last updated: April 23, 2019
If heaven for you is a mountain of lush purple plums; hills of orange, green, red, and yellow peppers; and mounds of ruby radishes, you probably judge your supermarket on the quality of its fruits and veggies.
You're not alone. Good-quality fruits and veggies, available in abundant variety and at low prices, are among the factors that Consumer Reports members consider most important when choosing a particular grocer, according to our recent survey.
To inspire shoppers, many stores use machines that spray a fine mist and even employ theatrical spotlights to show their bounty at its best.
"Those oranges, rutabagas, and eggplants will look better in the store than they ever will in your kitchen," says Paco Underhill, chief executive officer of Envirosell, a New York City-based research and consulting firm focused on consumer behavior.
The top grocers for both produce quality and variety, scattered around the country, are all privately held companies. All also earned the highest marks for variety of locally produced products. In ratings order, they are:
• Central Market (Texas)
• Wegmans (mid-Atlantic)
• Heinen's (Ohio and Chicagoland)
• Gelson's (Southern California)
• New Seasons Market (Oregon, Washington, and Northern California)
Two other retailers excelled in produce quality, with commendable scores for produce variety, and variety of locally sourced products:
• Lunds & Byerlys (Minnesota)
• Fresh Thyme Farmers Market (Midwestern states, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania).
CR members we interviewed often brought up produce as a reason for their choice of store.
Jeff Salgo of Toluca Lake, Calif., raves about the quality of Gelson's produce. The variety also impresses him. "In summer when fruits are available, they have a great selection," he says. "In other markets, they have one kind of plum. At Gelson’s, they’ll have six kinds of plums."
Richard Elder, from Avon, Ohio, says he appreciates that the Heinen's where he shops has plenty of locally sourced vegetables. Though he says the Whole Foods Market near his home does some things better, "Heinen's is the first place we go."
In our ratings, Whole Foods was among more than a dozen grocers that were given commendable, though not top, scores for produce quality and variety.
At the other end of the produce spectrum are Grocery Outlet (West Coast, Idaho, Nevada, and Pennsylvania); Target/SuperTarget; Walmart Supercenter; and Key Food, an East Coast brand. All received lowest marks in produce quality.
Our members said Walmart's produce variety was disappointing but gave the worst marks for variety to the others.
The good news for most consumers is that the number of places they can shop for fresh produce is growing. You can find high-quality fruits and veggies at farmers markets, health-food stores, specialty markets, and even online grocers.
Each month, 68 percent of Americans shop at five or more types of food retailers, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, a grocery industry organization, and The Hartman Group, a food and beverage industry consulting company in Bellevue, Wash.
Grocers that take care not only in the quality of their offerings but also in the information about them they display are the ones that gain a loyal following, notes Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group. "The narrative is important," Demeritt says. That could include whether a food was locally produced, came from a small farm, or was grown under special conditions.
For instance, the produce web page for top ratings performer Wegmans profiles a local farm that supplies some of its fresh items.
"When you talk about taking more care growing a product, consumers will think it means it’s better quality," Demeritt says. "It’s meaningful to consumers that there was more thought, and intention, put into it."
05-13-2019 01:01 PM
Interesting, but I have none of those markets near me except Walmart. I intend to buy my fruits and veggies at a farmers market this summer. Im tired of paying high prices for half withered and small dinky veggies.
05-13-2019 01:07 PM
The produce section is my favorite part of the market!
I have a Fresh Thyme Market near me that has some good produce, but I get mine mostly at my food co-op that supplies from local farmers, and my Kroger which also is supporting local farmers more and more. Sometimes I buy at Whole Foods and also Trader Joe's but their offerings' freshness can be spotty. And much is shipped in from far away.
I like to buy local and do so whenever possible.
05-13-2019 01:28 PM - edited 05-13-2019 03:52 PM
Wish there were even one of these anywhere near me. 😡
Given the RAIN we’ve had there will be NO bumper produce harvest either.
@feline groovy Thanks!
05-13-2019 01:30 PM - edited 05-13-2019 01:31 PM
Yes, I must agree about Wegmans. Produce is nicely displayed and reasonably priced, with a good variety compared to its competitors. The produce section is right there when you walk into the store, as the article mentioned. Local suppliers are highlighted when their products are offered. Wegmans doesn't have weekly sales, as mosr supermarkets do; its everyday prices are lower than the same for most other markets.
05-13-2019 01:39 PM
This might sound far-fetched to some of you, but, when DH and I were searching for a new home, one of my personal requisites was proximity to a Heinen's grocery store. From the quality of produce to helpfulness and friendliness of staff, hands down, in fifty years, it is the best line of grocery stores I've found.
05-13-2019 01:54 PM
@feline groovy I'm lucky to live in an area of Ohio that has Heinen's all over the place. I live within 10 minutes of two of them, and I can attest that they do have the best produce. As a matter of fact, they are great in every way. The employees are all friendly and helpful, and they have the best prepared foods you can imagine.......better than homemade. Their deli department is always jammed!
05-13-2019 02:03 PM
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