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Hawaii’s Lowest Grocery Store Prices: Don Quijote

Foodland a close second; Safeway’s prices highest

(page 1 of 2)

There are many factors that determine where you buy your groceries: location, service, selection, and product quality. But price may be the most important, because everyone likes a deal.

During three weeks in May, I visited 22 grocery stores all over Oahu and my colleagues went to a total of nine stores on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island. We surveyed the prices at each store for 27 commonly purchased items – same brand, same size. For dairy items, fresh meat and produce, we picked the cheapest choice available for that product.

We collected prices anonymously from May 5 to May 23 and at multiple locations to ensure the survey was not unduly influenced by sale prices during one week or at a single location.

The results: Of the four chains surveyed on Oahu, Don Quijote stores had the lowest overall prices, but Foodland was a close second and Times not far behind in third. Safeway was clearly in last place, with the highest prices.

Don Quijote had the lowest prices whether I just compared regular prices or compared sales and club prices among the stores. But I experienced clear tradeoffs at Don Quijote’s four stores on Oahu: More crowding, greater likelihood of items being sold out or not finding a price tag, and longer checkout lines. On the plus side, Don Quijote offers electronics, clothing, toys and many other items not found at its grocery-store competitors.

A food industry manager familiar with local grocery store pricing, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that Safeway tends to have the highest prices among the chains in Hawaii.

“What are on their (advertisements’) front pages are smoking hot deals that reflect their tremendous buying power,” the manager told Hawaii Business writer Shara Enay. “However, when you take the broad spectrum of items that could be found in a store, and you put them head to head against other stores, Safeway tends to be a little on the high side.”

Susan Houghton, Safeway’s corporate director of communications and government affairs, says it doesn’t normally talk about pricing strategy, but insists it has fair deals. “If you look in our stores, you’ll see our yellow shelf tags, which shows customers how we’ve reduced prices on various items,” she says. “We understand how the economy has affected our customers, so we are cutting prices wherever we can.”

In the survey, Foodland’s regular prices were close to Safeway’s regular prices, but its sale and club pricing ended up $12.28 lower on average than Safeway’s sale and club pricing on our total grocery list. “We are very diligent about performing price checks with our competition to ensure that we are competitively priced in all categories,” says Sheryl Toda, director of communications for Foodland.

Times and Don Quijote did not return phone calls for comment.

Of the four major grocery-store chains that we surveyed, Foodland is the only one that is locally owned and has more stores in Hawaii than any of the others. Safeway is the third-largest grocery chain in the U.S., with stores nationwide, and is the second largest in Hawaii; Don Quijote is owned by a Japanese corporation and has many more outlets in Japan; and Times, though operating only in Hawaii, is owned by a California company.

 

Our Grocery List

Cheapest price for each item highlighted

 

Best price average on Oahu at

Product

Don Quijote

Foodland

Safeway

Times

Dairy and Produce

       

Whole milk, 1 gallon jug (cheapest brand)

$4.99

$4.72

$3.99

$4.84

Carrots, 1 lb., loose

1.07

1.49

1.49

1.29

Eggs, 12 large, Grade A (cheapest brand)

2.61

2.87

2.66

2.36

Broccoli crowns, 1 lb.

1.71

2.42

2.92

2.82

         

Meats

       

Ground beef, 20+% fat (small pack, price/lb.)

2.68

2.99

3.19

3.41

Chicken thighs, bone in (small pack, price/lb.)

2.06

2.65

2.31

2.02

SPAM, 12 oz. can

2.52

2.13

2.29

2.49

Hebrew National hot dogs, 7 pack

4.52

4.78

4.60

6.32

         

Canned goods

       

Hunts tomato sauce, 15 oz. can

1.40

1.93

1.58

1.99

Green Giant canned corn, 15.25 oz. can

1.69

1.99

2.29

1.99

Coral tuna, 5 oz. can

1.02

1.26

1.92

1.32

         

Liquids

       

Budweiser beer, 12 pack of cans

13.09

10.99

12.99

11.99

Coke, 12 pack of cans

6.19

5.59

5.99

5.16

Lion Gold coffee, 10 oz. bag

5.22

6.08

7.19

5.52

Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, 10.75 oz. can

1.49

1.43

1.39

1.50

         

Local favorites

       

Calrose white rice, 20 lb. bag, Hinode brand

15.99

10.99

18.99

13.99

Sapporo Ichiban Saimin, 2.25 oz.

0.60

0.72

1.29

0.79

Aloha soy sauce, 24 oz. bottle

2.89

3.99

3.99

3.19

Best Foods mayonnaise, 15 oz. jar

3.99

4.59

5.39

4.39

         

Kids and cats

       

Friskies cat food, 5.5 oz. can

0.66

0.78

0.86

0.73

Cheerios, 18 oz. box

5.94

6.99

6.51

5.99

Gerber 2nd Foods baby food, 2 X 3.5 oz. packs

1.59

1.49

1.18

1.49

Huggies Little Movers diapers,
for children over 27 lbs., 23 in a pack

12.24

13.66

11.99

13.32

         

This and that

       

Heinz Ketchup, 20 oz.

2.37

3.32

3.67

3.49

Skippy peanut butter, 16.3 oz.

2.50

3.34

4.79

2.49

Love’s King White bread (16 oz. loaf)

3.86

3.36

3.87

3.49

Toilet paper, Charmin, 4 rolls
(Scott at Foodland)

5.54

5.19

4.69

4.82

         

Totals

$110.43

$111.74

$124.02

$113.22

 

 

We chose 27 popular items for our grocery list. We generally avoided fruits and vegetables because varying quality might produce varied prices, and stuck instead to the same products available at all the stores.

We priced each item at six Oahu stores for Foodland, Safeway and Times, and four Don Quijote stores. The pricing was spread over three weeks so one week’s sales would not unduly affect the average price.

Occasionally, an item on our list was not available at a single store. In that case, we averaged the prices on that item at the other stores within the same chain.

Here are the averages of the prices we found at each chain’s stores. Those averages include sale or “Club” prices if they were lower than regular prices.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Jul 29, 2010 12:17 am
 Posted by  franksalot

I don't believe Matt's story that Safeway is the highest price store.

Nobody charges higher or lower for the price of the #1 selling fruit in the produce department. Bananas- it probably brings in more profit for this department than any other item. So Matt, why does Safeway sell bananas in Chicago, Sacramento, Alaska for 79 cents per lb, yet they sell them for $1.19 lb in Maui? Answer: All the stores are price gouging. All the stores probaby pay no more than 40 cents a lb but charge 1.19

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Nov 24, 2010 02:09 pm
 Posted by  rj

Safeway is the highest priced grocery store for the most part on the island. Wal-Mart is the best when it come to a lot of boxed and can goods. I went there filed up my cart with groceries to the top for $134.00 can't beat that.

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