Why You Should Never Buy Fresh Produce At Walmart

Many consumers may wonder where the best store is to purchase fresh fruits and veggies. According to a recent poll, grocery store shoppers are split on where to shop for produce regionally. Texans love their Central Market, while mid-Atlantic shoppers prefer Wegmans. Trader Joe's wins with shoppers nationwide. Unfortunately, customers across the country agree that Walmart's produce section is not up to snuff. Walmart (along with one of its competitors, the otherwise mostly-beloved Target) was ranked at the very bottom of a grocery store survey taken by Consumer Reports for its produce quality (via MSN). These surveys are taken annually, and Walmart's variety of produce was also given low satisfaction scores.

Meanwhile, Aldi and Costco scored high for organic food offerings. The survey also looked at service, and this is another area Walmart faltered in. It seems when it comes to buying household goods and everyday essentials, Walmart is the go-to destination. For produce with a wide variety and high quality, and with service-oriented and knowledgable associates, you may be best-served to shop elsewhere. 

Service suffers at Walmart

One possible reason that Walmart's produce is not meeting customers' standards is that when stores are understaffed, according to a 2011 Grist report, Walmart pulls employees from other departments to work in the produce section. But produce maintenance requires expertise — just as much as someone working at a plant nursery — and people working in Walmart's apparel, lawn, or jewelry sections might not know as much about properly caring for the fruits and veggies you're considering placing in your shopping cart.

"This rating is not one that we ever want to have, but it is also not indicative of the overall program," Molly Blakeman, a Walmart spokesperson told Consumer Reports in response to the low-service rating. "We appreciate your feedback, it's going to help us make the service better overall."

When it comes specifically to addressing their produce problem, it seems Walmart is also doing its best to improve performance. 

Walmart offers organic produce, but not everyone is impressed

Walmart is clearly taking the low produce ratings to heart. Going all the way back to 2014, Walmart began to offer organic items, as well as some local produce at some of its stores. But critics still warn that the organic section should be shopped with caution. Since the organic fruits and veggies cost less at the superstore, Grist notes Walmart may not be able to source from small, local farmers, which isn't good for them. 

But Walmart assures its naysayers that their model works: "We are working with our suppliers to create a surety of demand which ultimately helps us pass along savings to our customers. We're using our scale to deliver quality, organic groceries to our customers for less. When we do this, it's a win, win, win situation for our customers, our suppliers and our company. Our customers can trust that they will save money at Walmart, our suppliers can count on us for the demand and we are able to offer innovative new products."

Unfortunately, a price comparison shows many organic produce items are actually cheaper at Whole Foods (via The Simple Dollar). That's likely a result of Amazon's purchase of the health food chain. "The value of shopping Walmart over Whole Foods is more about perception than it is about price," the outlet concludes.

Walmart makes more efforts to improve its produce rating

In recent years, the chain has placed a new focus on the importance of healthy eating (i.e., lots of fresh fruits and veggies) and even partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama to promote healthy living (via Walmart).

Last year, the mega retailer also launched a program to overhaul their produce section (via Walmart). Some of the changes included adding more space so that the area had more of an "open market feel" and grouping all of the organic offerings into one dedicated area area. Signs advertising the price of produce were also added to the section, so that customers know they're getting a good deal on their fruits and vegetables; if they choose to shop the section at all.

Funnily enough, Walmart's best-selling item every year is actually a produce item — bananas (via The Daily Meal).