We went to Trader Joe’s and the store that Whole Foods launched to compete with it — and it’s clear who does it better

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

  • Whole Foods recently opened its seventh Whole Foods 365 grocery store. It’s part of a new chain of budget-oriented grocery stores with a focus on the retailer’s private-label brand.
  • The newest Whole Foods 365 store in Brooklyn, New York, competes directly with nearby Trader Joe’s stores by having lower prices than Whole Foods but a similar selection of healthy foods.
  • I went to a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods 365 to see which store was better – and the winner was clear.

Trader Joe’s is known for its inexpensive and healthy products, and customers are willing to wait in sometimes outrageous lines to get groceries from the store.

Whole Foods, which is typically more expensive than Trader Joe’s, recently expanded its chain of 365 stores to compete more directly with lower-priced grocers.

Whole Foods 365 is designed to be more accessible and less expensive than a traditional Whole Foods store, and it emphasizes the retailer’s private-label brand, also called 365.

The Whole Foods 365 stores feature in-store dining and seating areas, a rewards program, and a huge selection of products intended to set it apart from its competitors.

I went to a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods 365 in Brooklyn, New York, to see what it was like to buy groceries at each.


First, I went to Trader Joe’s.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Located in the food court at the City Point shopping center in Brooklyn, this Trader Joe’s had a lot of places to sit and eat outside the store.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Considering how crowded Trader Joe’s stores are known to get, I was surprised at how quiet this location was.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The first thing I saw when I walked in was the flower display, with bouquets from $3.99 to $6.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The produce section of the store was huge …

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

… and the organic foods were only a few cents more expensive than the nonorganic versions.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Some of the produce was unusually cheap, like bananas at $0.19 each …

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

… and apples at $0.49 each.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

In fact, most of what the store offered was pretty inexpensive, such as the cereals for $3 or less.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

It also had $1 pasta.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

But some of the snacks were more expensive.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Trader Joe’s offered a handful of specialty items that are vegan, kosher, or gluten-free.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Plus it had a tasting station with samples and the option to try anything in the store.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Though there were more than 20 registers, only a few were open, so there was still a line.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Next, I went to the brand-new Whole Foods 365 store, just a few blocks from Trader Joe’s.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

On the upper level were a bakery, a juice press, and a vegan burger joint, along with other smaller vendors. There was a big seating area to hang out in — a perk unique to the Whole Foods 365 stores.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The grocery store was downstairs, and it was huge. It was also pretty crowded.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The first flowers I saw were priced at $15, but Whole Foods 365 also has options for $5, $10, and $20.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

At $1.39, some of the organic pasta options were more expensive, but Whole Foods 365 also price-matches Trader Joe’s when it comes to non-organic pastas, which cost $0.99.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Whole Foods 365’s organic spinach and kale were two for $6, whereas similar greens at Trader Joe’s were $2.29 each.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The prices for nonorganic produce were on par with those at Trader Joe’s. Whole Foods 365 matched Trader Joe’s banana price at $0.19.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

The cereals were also priced similar to those at Trader Joe’s, with most boxes of the 365 brand at under $3.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

A lot of 365-brand snacks were less expensive than similar items at Trader Joe’s. The tortilla chips were one example of this — they were almost $2 less at Whole Foods 365.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

It seemed as if specialty items like organic foods were more expensive at Whole Foods 365 while nonorganic produce and snacks were typically cheaper. There were also way more savings opportunities at Whole Foods 365, especially for rewards-program members — customers who sign up for the program can get an instant 10% off hundreds of products, on top of discounts based on their shopping habits.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Whole Foods 365 generally had a much bigger selection, in everything from baked goods …

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

… to beer.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Whole Foods 365 didn’t have any samples, but it did have a hot-food bar, which Trader Joe’s did not have.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Next to the hot-food bar was another seating area to enjoy the food right after you buy it.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Almost all of the 20 registers were open, and there was no line.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider

Overall, Whole Foods 365 had a wider selection and a more shopper-friendly environment, including shorter lines and in-store restaurants and seating. Though some products were more expensive, there were sales and other savings opportunities that Trader Joe’s lacked.

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Jessica Tyler/Business Insider