Whole Foods has been cutting prices to try and shed its "whole paycheck" image.
But it's still one of the most expensive places to buy food, according to Wedbush Securities analysts.
They compared prices at Whole Foods stores in half a dozen cities to those at various competing supermarkets to determine which stores were cheaper.
They found that Whole Foods is about 15% more expensive than other "conventional" supermarkets, such as Kroger, Wegmans, and Safeway.
On a $300 shopping trip, that's a difference of about $45.
Analysts also compared Whole Foods' prices to those at "specialty" grocers, including Trader Joe's and Sprouts Farmers Market, and found that Whole Foods was about 19% more expensive.
Whole Foods charges the biggest premium over its competitors in the meat department, where prices are roughly 40% more expensive than those at rival supermarkets.
This is an improvement over last year, however, when Whole Foods charged about 50% more for meats than its competitors, analysts said.
The price gap in produce isn't as wide, though. Whole Foods charges about 22% more than competitors for fresh produce, according to the survey.
Overall, Whole Foods is getting closer to its competitors on price. The company's average price premium over conventional grocers has dropped from 23% in the first quarter of the year to 15% in the second quarter.
Analysts said that this improvement is a promising sign for the business. They also seemed impressed by the low prices they found at Whole Foods' new chain of stores, 365 by Whole Foods Market.
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The 365 chain was about 23% cheaper than traditional Whole Foods stores and only 4% more expensive than low-price leader Trader Joe's.
The analysts wrote:
Price investments by Whole Foods and the lower pricing found at its new 365 store are encouraging, but we continue to observe lower prices and increased availability of comparable products at conventional grocers. We remain firmly in wait-and-see mode to gauge if the retailer can reach price relevancy with multi-channel consumers.
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