Friday, August 5, 2011

[EID Feature] Whole Foods is Really Not That Expensive, We Promise

We're still reeling from the negative response the official Whole Foods to open in Detroit's Midtown announcement received from a very specific contingency of "Detroit is perfect the way it is" cheerleaders. Enough so that we're making it this week's theme.

Anti-Whole Foods "arguments" seem to fall into one of three major categories:

Number One. "We already have University Foods and Honey Bee and that's enough." To that contingency, wherever you got your business and/or urban planning degree from should no longer be allowed to teach. But we already addressed that, so let's move on.

Number Two.
"They're using MY tax dollars to..." We've found that whenever a person starts a sentence with "They're using MY tax dollars to..." what-the-hell ever, that the rest of that sentence is going to be nothing more than a steaming stream of ignorance with a complete absence of understanding of how federal and municipal tax spending works. We call them "armchair politicians" and we just tune them out. But, for argument's sake (because we love a good argument), let's review. Actually, someone already did it for us:

Detroit is paying to attract a supermarket. That’s problematic. When Detroit pays to attract or retain sports teams with multi-million dollar stadium investments? No problem.

Tax credit financing for the Compuware Building or the Book-Cadillac restoration? Never a discouraging word.

Public infrastructure dollars spent so sprawl developers can build houses that will compete (in a shrinking market) with homes (built when this was a growing market) in the inner-ring suburbs? That’s progress!

When Ed McNamara decided taxpayers should build Northwest (now Delta) Airlines’ new branch office in Romulus (i.e. the new airport)? Look to the ground and shuffle your feet.

Hells bells, the very products sold in University Foods, Whole Foods or any other grocer are subsidized to the tune of billions of federal dollars. Leave the Whole Foods nickels alone for a second, and take aim at the piles of cash dumped on “heartland” agri-business.

Yet, a subsidy for a high-profile grocery store in a resurgent part of Detroit is the threat to our free market system? Columnist, please.

(From Jeff Wattrick at MLive, read the full article here.)

For good measure and just to make sure we cover all bases, we'll also throw in those film incentives that everyone was aaaaaaaall excited about and when threatened by "One Tough Nerd" Rick Snyder, created a large-scale uproar with protests and everything. Ironically, by some of the exact same people who are behind such precious jewels as the new Facebook fan page, "Whole Foods Isn't Worth $4.2 Million in Incentives." (Their opposition's Facebook fan page, "I am happy Whole Foods is coming to Detroit because I am not insane," is currently outpacing them in "fans" 90 to 12.) For the record, in 2010, the Michigan Film Office paid out $95 million in movie credits, with another $209 million approved but not yet paid. That equals - wait for it - over 72 times as much of YOUR tax dollars as what is being doled out to Whole Foods. So, please, pretty pretty please, shut up.

Number Three:
"Whole Foods is too expensive and people in Detroit can't afford it."

Is that so? Well, to prove that line of logic totally and completely wrong, we did a little covert research this week, hitting up the Whole Foods in Troy and photographing a random sampling of kitchen cupboard staples and day-to-day necessities that are part of their brand signature 365 Everyday Value line (like Meijer's eponymous generic label and Target's Market Pantry line), then compared their prices to the prices for the same exact items at University Foods and Honey Bee (which, for whatever reason, are being upheld as Reason Number One).

Also, bear in mind, the 365 label is largely organic, which you already know is more expensive anyway, whereas many of the University and Honey Bee comparisons are not. We differentiate where possible. We also note where prices were compared to other generic labels instead of name brands.

Basic cereal
Here we looked at standard cereals, particularly corn flakes.
Whole Foods: $2.69
Honey Bee: $2.49 (generic label)
University Foods: $3.19 (generic label)

Garbanzo and pinto. Maybe not common in every household, but a common enough canned good.

Whole Foods: $1.39 garb & pinto (both organic)
Honey Bee:  $1.39 garb, $1.29 pinto (not organic)
University Foods: $.99 garb, $1.29 pinto (not organic)

We look at 11-oz. non-organic small cans, 32-oz. non-organic large cans, and 32-oz. boxed organic to compare solely to Whole Foods' 32-oz. boxed organic.

Whole Foods: $1.99 (organic)
Honey Bee: $1.19 (small), $3.39 (large), $3.49 (organic box)
University Foods: $1.05 (small), $2.49-3.19 (large), $3.49 (organic box)
Frozen waffles
Here we compare Whole Foods' organic frozen waffles to Eggo and Kashi (limited selections available at comp stores)

Whole Foods: $2.69 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.99 (Eggo brand)
University Foods: $2.85 (Eggo brand), $4.59 (Kashi brand, closest organic comparison available)

Frozen Fruit Bars
Not popsicles, but whole fruit bars. Best comparison at comp stores was Edy's Fruit Bars.

Whole Foods: $2.99 16-oz. 4-pack
Honey Bee: $3.00 16.5-oz. 6-pack
University Foods: $3.99 16.5-oz. 6-pack

Please note: the weight in ounces are nearly identical though the bar count differs.
Instant oatmeal
Once again comparing Whole Foods' organic product to non-organic products at comp stores, same weight.

Whole Foods: $3.39
Honey Bee: $4.19
University Foods: $4.19

Kettle chips
Here we compare pricing on 15-oz. bags of kettle chips at Whole Foods to much smaller bags at comp stores. We're not making this up.

Whole Foods: $1.49 (15-oz.)
Honey Bee: $3.99 (9-oz.)
University Foods: $3.49 (8-oz.)

Here we look at 32-oz. containers of yogurt from Whole Foods, organic and not, as well as single-serving cups, compared to non-organic comp stores.

Whole Foods: $2.69 (non-organic large), $2.99 (organic large), $.79 (single)
Honey Bee: $3.29 (non-organic large), $4.49 (organic large), $1.29 (single)
University Foods: $2.59 (generic non-organic large), $3.19 (Dannon non-organic large), $.79 (single)

32 ounces of non-organic mayo at Whole Foods compared to 30-oz. Hellman's at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.99
Honey Bee: $6.29
University Foods: $5.99

Pasta sauce
25-oz. jars of organic pasta sauce at Whole Foods compared to same size both organic and non-organic at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.39 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.89 (Prego), $4.99 (organic)
University Foods: $3.19 (Ragu), $3.59 (organic Ragu)

Peanut Butter
18-oz. organic peanut butter at Whole Foods compared to same size both organic and non-organic at comp stores.

Whole Foods: $3.99 (organic)
Honey Bee: $2.89 (non-organic JIF), $4.49 (organic)
University Foods: $1.99 (non-organic JIF on sale at time of research), $7.69 (organic)

Items we were not able to covertly snap pictures of include:

Milk (comparing both organic and non-organic at all three stores)

Whole Foods: $3.49 (gallon, non-organic), $3.49 (half-gallon, organic), $1.99 (half-gallon, non-organic)
Honey Bee: $3.49 (gallon, non-organic), $4.59-5.59 (half-gallon, organic), $2.49 (half-gallon, non-organic)
University Foods: $3.69 (gallon, non-organic), $3.79-4.49 (half-gallon, organic), $2.69 (half-gallon, non-organic)

Eggs (comparing all organic at Whole Foods to both organic and non-organic at comp stores)

Whole Foods: $2.99-4.39 (all organic)
Honey Bee: $1.49 (large white non-organic), $1.99 (large brown non-organic), $4.49 (large white organic)
University Foods: $1.00 (large white non-organic, on sale at time of research), $2.99 (large brown organic, on sale at time of research, regularly $4.39)

Orange Juice (comparing all organic at Whole Foods to all non-organic comp stores)

Whole Foods: $3.39 (half-gallon, organic), $3.99 (
half-gallon, organic juice blends)
Honey Bee: $2.49 (half-gallon, non-organic), $4.59 (half-gallon, non-organic juice blends)
University Foods: $2.99-3.99 (half-gallon, non-organic), $3.49 (half-gallon, non-organic juice blends)

Okay? Cool? Can we be done with this idiocy now and just be happy we're going to have something nice for once, FOR ONCE?

Yours truly,
The staff of Eat It Detroit