Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Gephardt: Will shopping specialty food markets save you money?

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TAYLORSVILLE – This story begins with a personal mission: A hunt – if you will – for a most elusive prey. My family has dubbed it, “rooster sauce,” a specific brand of sriracha hot sauce.

The Huy Fong brand seems to have disappeared from the shelves of the grocery stores we usually shop. My wife, who could drink the stuff by the gallon, says the other sriracha sauces just are not the same.

My hunt brought me to a plaza in Taylorsville with an assortment of Vietnamese restaurants and specialty stores, including the Saigon Supermarket which imports Vietnamese foods.

Specialty? Import? Two words one would not normally link to savings, so I went inside expecting to pay a premium for “rooster sauce.”

KSL’s Matt Gephardt found his family’s beloved sriracha “rooster” sauce selling for less at a specialty food market, prompting him to investigate whether inflation busting savings are offered for other food staples. (Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV)

Turns out, not only did the store stock the stuff, but it also appeared to be cheaper than I had previously paid. As I perused the store’s aisles, I found other food staples that on the surface felt to be less expensive, so I jotted down some notes. And then, I did a little comparison shopping at Walmart, Smith’s, Macey’s and Harmons.

Indeed, the Saigon Supermarket was less expensive on some stuff. A 16 oz. bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing there cost $1.49 compared to the $3.48 price tag at Walmart, the $4.39 at Smith’s, the $4.49 at Macey’s and the $5.99 at Harmons.

Ginger root would have cost me $1.29 at Saigon Supermarket compared to the same quantity priced at $3.99 at Smith’s, and $4.99 at both Macey’s and Harmons.

Saigon Supermarket also offers up tilapia at the lowest price per pound – only $2.49 compared to Smith’s $4.99, Macey’s $6.25, and Walmart’s $5.62.

These price differences got me pondering: Is this a one-off or could other specialty stores that cater to specific communities also be places to potentially save?

KSL’s Matt Gephardt compared prices for the same shopping list at large traditional supermarkets and smaller specialty food markets. (Sloan Schrage, KSL TV)

That brought me to Tejeda’s Market in West Valley City, a store where knowing a little Spanish can help as you browse the aisles.

Right off the bat, I noticed how much of the stuff on the shelves bore the Food Club brand. Macey’s and Harmons offer that same brand and that’s perfect as it allows for some exact item comparisons.

At $2.29, the Food Club peanut butter sold at Tejeda’s bests the price for the same product at both Macey’s ($2.59) and Harmons ($2.69.)

In the produce aisles, Tejeda’s also stocked the least expensive jalapenos of anyone in our little experiment – $1.39 there got you the same quantity as $1.59 at Smith’s, $1.49 at Macey’s, $2.49 at Harmons, $1.54 at Walmart and $1.49 at the Saigon Supermarket.

However, the specialty markets we shopped were not always the inflation busters. Smith’s sells the cheapest hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and tortillas. Macey’s has the least expensive box of Trix cereal. And Walmart wound up being the cheapest on many items from canned beans and fresh limes to a five-pound bag of jasmine rice – even outdoing Saigon Supermarket’s rice price by one cent.

And that brings us back to where this whole project began: “rooster sauce.” On the day we shopped, we only found the Huy Fong sriracha sauce at three stores. And it turns out I was wrong. You’ll pay less for a bottle at Smith’s – $3.49 there. That’s ten cents cheaper than the Saigon Supermarket. It also handily beat’s Walmart’s price of $4.97.

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