In a blind taste test run by noted food writer Corby Kummer, Wal-Mart produce beat produce from Whole Foods in a multi-course faceoff. The competition, described in Kummer's article (www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2010/03/the-great-grocery-smackdown/7904) in the March 2010 issue of the Atlantic magazine, involved serving identical four course meals side-by-side to a panel of 16 foodies with impeccably elevated tastes and anti-big-box-store biases.
One was made with organic/local products purchased from a Wal Mart Supercenter and the other from a Whole Foods. (By the way, the tab was $126.02 at Wal Mart and $175.04 at Whole Foods. Surprised?)
Wal Mart scored with both the appetizer (almonds and fried goat cheese with red onion jam and honey) and salad (mixed spring greens in a sherry vinaigrette) courses. Tasters especially praised Wal Mart's “fresher and heartier-flavored” greens and “aromatic” almonds.
The mega chain did falter in the entrée category (chicken breast served with a poached egg on a bed of spinach and golden raisins), done in by its obsessive need to shoot up every chicken breast it carries — even organic! — with “natural chicken broth.” One taster noted that “it's like they injected it with something to make it taste like fast food” (definitely not meant as a compliment, in case you were wondering).
Taking the thrill out of the victory for Whole Foods, however, was the almost universal consensus among the tasters that the spinach in the Wal Mart dish was “fresher.” Ouch!
Dessert (Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruit) was a slam dunk victory for Whole Foods, however, as the panna cotta made from Whole Foods ingredients was judged far superior.
To his credit, Kummer gives Wal Mart its due even though he is clearly not a fan. He describes the chain's efforts to do more local sourcing and (mostly) curbs his impulse to make elitist digs (at one point, after noting the “unfailingly enthusiastic” Wal Mart associates who helped him pick his ingredients, he gratuitously snipes, “I did wonder whether they got let out at night.”)
Kummer's conclusion: “I'm convinced that if it wants to, a ruthlessly well-run mechanism can bring fruits and vegetables back to land where they once flourished, and deliver them to the people who need them most.”
That's good, right?