Amazon to cut prices on hundreds of Whole Foods items

Whole Foods announced it cut prices this week on hundreds of items. [Times file photo]
Whole Foods announced it cut prices this week on hundreds of items. [Times file photo]
Published April 2, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market is set to cut prices this week on hundreds of items.

The cuts, which will span product categories across stores but be primarily concentrated on in-season produce, will be some of the broadest seen at Whole Foods since Amazon's $13.7 billion buyout in 2017.

The price of organic strawberries, for example, will be lowered by $2 to $2.99, while air-chilled whole chicken will cost $1.79 per pound, a 40 percent saving, according to the company.

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The cuts will begin Wednesday, Whole Foods said.

"The standards for how our products are sourced, grown and produced are powerful and set Whole Foods Market apart from the competition," Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in a written statement released Monday. "We will continue to focus on both lowering prices and bringing customers the quality they trust and the innovative assortment they expect from our brand."

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This is not the first time Amazon has moved to overhaul prices at Whole Foods. The e-commerce giant famously cut prices on the first day it owned the Austin-based grocery chain, and it has worked to establish price breaks for customers through its Amazon Prime membership, which offers a 10 percent discount for any item marked with a blue Prime tag.

But Amazon has had a difficult time maintaining lower prices. A recent price check by the American-Statesman of 25 items at Whole Foods' headquarter store on North Lamar Boulevard in Austin found that the total price was 5.8 percent lower than when the same basket was checked just before Amazon's acquisition, but the total had also risen in the past year.

Internal communications reported on by the Wall Street Journal in February also revealed that Whole Foods had been raising prices on some items from a range of 10 cents to several dollars due to increasing suppliers' costs. Industry experts have long said Amazon would have a tough time maintaining lower prices without compromising the quality of products at Whole Foods.

Amazon's latest move indicates that the company continues to worry about keeping up with Walmart, Kroger and other chains in what is a $1 trillion U.S. Market for groceries and consumer products, the Journal reported Monday.

In addition to lowering prices, Amazon has started free grocery delivery for Prime customers in more than 60 locations, and it offers grocery pickup in more than 20 cities. Amazon said it also plans to expand its Prime rewards at Whole Foods to cover more than 300 products.