Why No Frills has the best produce

It costs less for the same, or better, quality produce.

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by

From the September/October 2013 issue of the magazine.

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Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Many people refuse to shop at discount retailers like No Frills and FreshCo because they believe the quality of the fruits and vegetables isn’t as good as the companies’ premium stores, Loblaws and Sobeys. To find out if that was really true, we visited five Toronto grocery stores to see for ourselves.

At both the discount and premium stores, all 16 items we compared were the highest or second highest Canada or U.S. grade, which means they meet industry measures of appearance, size and consistency. Surprisingly, the apples and pears at No Frills were the highest “Canada Extra Fancy” grade, while Loblaws was selling the lower-graded “Fancy” apples—for 50 cents more per pound! Overall, the No Frills produce cost 40% less and looked as fresh as the same items in the premium stores.

Our findings weren’t a surprise to Andreas Boecker, associate professor in food, agricultural and resource rconomics at the University of Guelph. “Quite often there is not much or no quality difference between the premium and the discount banner,” he says.

8 comments on “Why No Frills has the best produce

  1. I would like to know why we still pay $1.47 a lbs.& up for Apples,when I can get 20lbs.of for $8.95.I have just bought them at a country store.

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    • There’s actually a great pdf the explains pricing differences, this is from Cornell University, developed by Sandra Healy.
      hortmgt.gomez.dyson.cornell.edu/…/Pricing%20Example.pdf

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    • Probably because the country bought them directly from the farmer. The farmer probably made more from the country store sale. When large companies buy produce they buy large a quantity and pay a lower price.. They then go to distributers where they are washed and packaged. Now they are sold to the grocery stores where staff puts them on the shelf. Each process has a labour cost and you pay that cost. The country grocer bought from the farmer, threw them in a bag and sold them to you. Sad but true. If we could buy from the farmers we would all be better off.

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    • Not everyone can eat 20 lbs of apples in a week, dude.

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  2. In my experience the freshness at the discount store depends on where you live, I lived in a small town some years ago and my only options were A&P or No FrillsI chose No Frills I had no problems finding fresh produce and meat and everything I needed and the store was always bright and clean, now that I am living in a larger city I have triend No Frills a few times but always end up back at Fortino’s, the produce at No Frills is not the same quality, the meat is not the same quality, right down to the packaged items there are items that you can only get at Fortino’s even though No Frills and Fortino’s are under the same banner, No Frills does not sell any organic produce or meat in my city, again forcing me to go to Fortino’s as I prefer to get certain items organic. I feel like in this city Loblaws has a preception that if you want to eat fresh and healthy then you have to pay a premium if you cannot afford that premium then you have to go and eat garbage, it’s pretty sad, but my health and my family’s health is important so I guess I”m stuck paying the premiums. Next time you want to do a study on this you should check out different city’s not just Toronto.

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  3. I haven’t found that to be true. You can’t tell from looks alone. I’d be more convinced if your expert opinion comes from professional chefs.

    For instance, when I buy broccoli at No Frills, they are often smaller, a bit purple, sometimes taste bitter and go bad the next day. Broccoli from Sobeys are larger, fresher and lasts for more than a week. Apples are always bruised from bargain shops even when they are the same brand. It is not just esthetic, bruised spot is where bacteria get in. Plenty of frozen food at No Frills are months past expiration. Be careful! I used to live across a Price Chopper where they just leave milk crates out in the sun from 6am to 9am until their workers have time to shelf them! My mom said their milk always go bad a week before expiration date!

    But I do find Fresh Co. to be quite good. They often run out of stock when something is on sale, but they rarely have spoiled produce. On the other hand, Metro is quite bad for their price point especially the meat and seafood.

    In the end, if you are buying low risk items such as non-perishables and hearty produces, you can save money at discount stores. But you’d definitely get more value from nicer stores for meat, fish and leafy greens.

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  4. No Frills is alright. Fresh Co is amazing for the price. Food Basics and Price Choppers are terrible.

    The biggest problem with discount stores is the customer base. They pinch the bread, open packages, drop fruits and veggies, leave meat in the cart for an hour then abandon it by the potato chips… I’m sure they get similar grades of food, but the handling is terrible. They also tend to hire temps and teens that don’t care about the job. They leave food out at the loading zone for hours, they throw apples, drag and kick onions… When I get milk from Sobeys, they remain fresh 2 weeks after the expiration date. The same brand of milk from Price Chopper turns days before the date.

    I used to live across a Price Chopper. Every Saturday, the milk and juices are delivered in front of their door before I wake up at 7am. They don’t finished putting them inside until after 9:30am. After the cartoons are inside, they are often left on the floor by the fridge while the teens are chatting about who is sleeping with who.

    If you must, buy only non-perishables at discount stores.

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  5. In thunder bay Ontario no frills had a month outdated snap peas and tiny rotten mandarins for the exact same price as the superstore which is the same company. I left and won’t be returning.

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