Gristedes
An unusual display at a Gristedes grocery store in New York city.

An unusual display at a Gristedes grocery store in New York city.Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

  • The US grocery sector is being disrupted as Lidl ramps up its store count in the US and Amazon takes market share with its acquisition of Whole Foods.
  • We compared two stores in London and New York City to see how the shopping experience differed.
  • We found a big difference in price, quality, and variety.

America’s grocery scene is in the midst of a major shake-up.

Last year, German discount store Lidl announced plans to expand in the US, and Amazon bought Whole Foods – both of which threatened to upend the US grocery market and send established national chains into aggressive price wars.

The grocery scene in New York City isn’t immune from these changes, not only because there are several Whole Foods stores in the city, but also because the absence of a major national chain like Walmart makes for a unique shopping experience.

We looked at how different it is to go grocery shopping in London versus New York. We disregarded Whole Foods, as it’s known to be a more premium store, and instead looked at two stores where customers would typically do a shopping trip in their neighborhood.

In London, we chose Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the UK, which occupies 27.8% of market share but is also considered to be a typical neighborhood store. It has five different store formats ranging from city convenience stores to large supermarkets in suburban areas. For this exercise, we visited one of its Express stores, which are under 3,000 square feet in size.

There’s no direct equivalent to this in New York City, so we picked a smaller chain, Gristedes, which has 30 stores across the city.

Here’s what we found out:

We visited a Tesco Express in London’s Fulham neighborhood on a cold January morning. On first impression, the store looks easy to navigate with clearly labeled sections.

We visited a Tesco Express in London's Fulham neighborhood on a cold January morning. On first impression, the store looks easy to navigate with clearly labeled sections.
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By the entrance, there’s an attention-grabbing fresh produce area to lure customers in. “It’s a way to immediately establish credibility and set a tone for the rest of the store,” Mike Paglia, director of the retail insights firm Kantar Retail, told Business Insider. “You can pick up and feel an apple or smell an onion, but you can’t do that with a pack of Cheerios, for example.”

By the entrance, there's an attention-grabbing fresh produce area to lure customers in.
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A similar tactic is used at the Gristedes store in Downtown Manhattan, though with a less nutritious approach. Fresh cakes and pies are displayed on a table near the entrance.

A similar tactic is used at the Gristedes store in Downtown Manhattan, though with a less nutritious approach. Fresh cakes and pies are displayed on a table near the entrance.
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Then there’s a strange twist — a rack of dated sunglasses is dropped right by the entrance. This is an unusual way to lure shoppers into the store in mid-January.

Then there's a strange twist — a rack of dated sunglasses is dropped right by the entrance. This is an unusual way to lure shoppers into the store in mid-January.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Instantly, there’s less of a focus on healthy fresh food, as the near wall is covered with two-liter bottles of Coke.

Instantly, there's less of a focus on healthy fresh food, as the near wall is covered with two-liter bottles of Coke.
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In fact, there’s a ton of soda and soft drinks.

In fact, there's a ton of soda and soft drinks.
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We find the fresh vegetable section tucked towards the back of the store. Glowing green, these unpackaged products look very fresh.

We find the fresh vegetable section tucked towards the back of the store. Glowing green, these unpackaged products look very fresh.
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At Tesco, by contrast, the vegetables are covered in packaging. UK supermarkets have been criticized by customers for coating products in excessive amounts of plastic, leading to a request for “plastic-free aisles.”

At Tesco, by contrast, the vegetables are covered in packaging. UK supermarkets have been criticized by customers for coating products in excessive amounts of plastic, leading to a request for
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UK consumers have called for supermarkets to create plastic-free aisles because of pollution concerns. Tesco has launched initiatives to reduce plastic in its stores.

The fruit and vegetable section gives us our first glimpse into the mammoth price difference between the two stores.

The fruit and vegetable section gives us our first glimpse into the mammoth price difference between the two stores.
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At Gristedes, you’ll pay $5.99 for a case of raspberries (and this doesn’t include New York city tax).

At Gristedes, you'll pay $5.99 for a case of raspberries (and this doesn't include New York city tax).
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At Tesco, they’re equivalent to $2.70 with VAT included.

At Tesco, they're equivalent to $2.70 with VAT included.
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Even American brands are cheaper in the UK. This bag of Doritos cost a whopping $4.29 at Gristedes and $1.35 at Tesco.

Even American brands are cheaper in the UK. This bag of Doritos cost a whopping $4.29 at Gristedes and $1.35 at Tesco.
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New Yorkers reportedly spend double the amount of money on basic groceries as Londoners, according to a CNBC report. High real estate costs in the city play…