The 6 Best And 6 Worst Grocery Stores To Buy Produce From

People are looking to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables they've been missing. Eating fresh produce gives you more energy, mental clarity, and helps you get the servings of vitamins and nutrients you need daily. Health experts suggest that you shop the perimeter of the grocery store where the freshly stocked perishables are kept — and stay away from the middle aisles. When you shop the perimeter, you're buying life-giving foods that offer the best nutritional value. 

With your health in mind, your grocery store criteria should consist of businesses that provide plenty of fruit and vegetable variety with great value and service. Buying organic produce also helps you eat foods that are free of pesticides and preservatives, so keep this as a priority when you shop. 

With so many good reasons to eat fresh produce, you might be asking: Where should I shop? Perhaps equally important is where should you not get your produce? Some grocery stores have raised the bar for quality, selection, organic availability, and cost-effectiveness. Others have either regressed or not kept up with the demand that today's consumers have for plentiful fruits and veggies. 

With this guide, you'll learn about six of the best and six of the worst grocery store options when it comes to buying fresh produce. 

Best: Sprouts Farmers Market

Sprouts Farmers Market is fairly new to the grocery store business compared to its competitors, but it has quickly become one of the best places you can go for fresh fruits and vegetables. Founded in 2002, the company now has nearly 400 stores in 23 states. The company offers fresh produce throughout every one of its 30,000-square-foot stores. 

While other grocery chains have a corner or a section for produce, Sprouts lives up to its name and is truly more of a farmer's market than a grocery store. Sprouts has an excellent variety of organic items, and focuses on delivering produce that is free of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A walk through a Sprouts store is a breath of fresh air if you're tired of pre-packaged and run-of-the-mill produce sections that many big box grocery retailers offer. 

At Sprouts, you'll find all of the favorites that stay on your grocery list, such as pears, apples, oranges, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and leafy green vegetables. Sprouts also offers some selections you can't find at just any grocery store — for example, cotton candy grapes, yellow dragonfruit, maradol papaya, and Chinese eggplant.

In addition to selections of fruit and vegetables, the middle aisles consist of bulk bins of items like quinoa, fresh nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy food selections. The company sources its products from farmers throughout the country. This allows you to shop for healthy produce at reasonable prices and helps local farmers stay in business. 

Worst: Walmart

Walmart is renowned for its low prices and the fact that you can get just about everything under one roof. There are more than 10,500 Walmart locations, which makes it pretty convenient for most people. Prior to 2020, many Walmarts were open 24 hours — even now, most have hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

While convenience is Walmart's calling card, a produce wonderland it is not. Business Insider reports that Walmart (in 2023) came in last place regarding satisfied customers — the retailer has spent the past decade-plus racking up similar designations in surveys for food quality, customer service, and other important attributes. Walmart customers complain that the produce is less fresh when compared to other outlets. They say that the offerings are sparse, variety is limited, and customer service representatives are often stretched so thin that they aren't much help. 

You also won't find a great selection of organic produce when you shop at Walmart. The retailer doesn't have strict policies for quality standards like other grocers, and it ships lower-quality produce. Walmart gets huge shipments when compared to other stores, which can also contribute to perishable foods sitting longer and spoiling. The store shines when it comes to prices and convenience, but it's the last place you'll want to shop if fresh produce is high on your priority list. 

Best: Whole Foods Market

For many produce shoppers, Whole Foods Market is the standard bearer that started it all. The company was founded in 1980 to make it easier for people to find fresh and organic produce. It's now the most recognizable store when searching for farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Today, there are more than 500 Whole Foods Market locations in operation in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. 

Whole Foods' mission is centered around nourishing people as well as the planet. And this company lives up to its reputation. You'll find a wide selection of fresh, certified organic produce – as per the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines – everything from beets and radishes to cucumbers, yams, and kale. You can choose between a wide variety of fruit: apples, tomatoes, oranges, tangerines, bananas, pears, and so much more. 

The store's produce department gets a gold star on options. You can hit the salad bar to get fresh greens topped with delicious nutrients, bulk legumes, and dried fruit. Many locations even serve freshly brewed kombucha from local merchants. The biggest complaint that you can make about Whole Foods Market is that it can be quite pricey. Its newfound partnership with Amazon is going a long way toward making the stores more accessible to the general public. Plus, the price is worth every penny as an investment into your health and well-being. 

Worst: Food Lion

Food Lion is another grocery chain that is perpetually listed among the worst in the United States. It's a grocery store chain with more than 1,000 locations, predominantly located in the southeast and mid-Atlantic areas of the country. Food Lion prides itself on offering its customers low prices with its MVP program. However, the juice simply isn't worth the squeeze if your priority is finding the best and freshest produce available.

Food Lion's produce section variety is limited when compared to other retailers. You'll find your standard fare of multiple apple selections, navel oranges, bananas, and grapes — but will likely have to look elsewhere for rarer and more exotic produce items that you'll get from other grocery stores.

Food Lion also has a history of criticism for its business practices, customer service, and cleanliness issues. The store has had an image problem since 1992 when it was the subject of an ABC story about its unsanitary practices and labor issues, which caused the company's stock to plummet. And while some of their products are locally sourced, Food Lion still lands on a Consumer Reports survey taken in the last decade, which indicates that customers still believe it has some work to do.

Best: The Fresh Market

The Fresh Market is another long-standing grocery store that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to customers. It's been around since 1982, and has 159 stores in 22 states. When you stop into a Fresh Market location, you're getting a combination of fresh produce with a personal and warm shopping environment. The owner made the stores to imitate European markets, so you're greeted with beautiful flowers when you step foot into any location. The Fresh Market is committed to supporting a healthy lifestyle, which customers love.

A USA Today survey ranked The Fresh Market the best grocery store in America. One shopping trip will show you why, as this retailer has a wide variety of fresh, organic produce. You'll get your fill of avocados, broccoli, watermelon, grapes, peaches, kale, and more. The company thrives when it comes to exotic and seasonal fruits. This lets you know that you're getting fresh offerings that are natural and free of preservatives. 

The company has consistently stayed on top of technology, which makes the shopping experience a breeze. You can order delivery online or schedule pickups at your local store. The Fresh Market's customer loyalty program is impressive, featuring frequent discounts and specials that can make its produce even more cost-effective. Customers can regularly check the store website for a list of what's in season, recipe ideas, and nutritional information from The Fresh Market Magazine. 

Worst: Target

Target is an excellent store to shop at when you want clothing, electronics, household items, and so much more. But step foot into any Target and the produce section is almost an afterthought. You'll see a few rows of refrigerators with fruit and vegetables, but you don't get nearly as many options as you'll find from dedicated grocery stores. 

Rather than having relationships with local farmers, you're more likely to see pre-packaged fruit and vegetable products. When comparing prices for popular items like strawberries, grapes, and bananas, you'll notice that the prices are higher than what you'll pay at grocery stores. The produce often comes in smaller quantities, and since they are pre-packaged, you don't have as much control over the pounds you ring up at the register. 

The selection is also sparse. You shouldn't have a problem finding apples, bananas, and bags of kale, but you will be hard-pressed to find more exotic offerings. Target is hit or miss when you're shopping organic — and the quality of produce will vary based on your location. You're fine if you have a hankering for something fresh and quick while you're shopping at Target for other reasons, but leave the store off your list when it's time to buy groceries. 

Best: Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee is a chain of grocery stores that shoppers in the midwest can depend on for the freshest, most sustainably sourced produce options. It's an employee-owned grocery store with a long-standing reputation since its inception in 1930. When the founder opened the first store, the core values were "good merchandise, appreciative service, and low prices." These values remain, because even today, the company values relationships with local farmers to deliver the best produce to its customers. The chain has more than 285 locations and has been named both a Top 3 favorite grocery store and Top 5 most trusted brand in America. 

Hy-Vee has a policy of working with 250 farmers in the midwest located within 200 miles of its store locations. This means your fruits and vegetables are fresh, aromatic, and colorful when you take them home and fill your refrigerator. Because your food doesn't have to travel far, you'll get great prices on apples, oranges, bananas, and other fruits, fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, roots, and herbs. 

The freshness and selection doesn't come at a cost of convenience to customers. Hy-Vee always strives to keep prices fair, and the store has special deals. Like many of today's big grocery chains, Hy-Vee's loyalty program also lets you get savings at the register and offers points that can lead to more savings later. You can shop online to make your quest for fresh fruits and vegetables even more convenient. 

Worst: Stop & Shop

Stop & Shop is one of the longest-standing major grocery chains in America. The company was founded in 1914 and has more than 400 locations throughout the northeast. While the company definitely has brand recognition, it falls short of providing the wide array of fresh produce that today's customer is looking for. 

The grocery store chain regularly finds itself on worst lists based on consumer recommendations. It can't compete with grocery stores in its class when it comes to produce selection and variety. The organic offerings are fewer than you'll see at better store chains, and you won't find the best quality produce in a Stop & Shop store. Many of the produce selections that you find at Stop & Shop are pre-packaged, which doesn't generate confidence in their freshness or local origin. 

Typically, cost is able to help strike a balance, but Stop & Shop also doesn't beat out its competitors when it comes to price. And customers complain about the cleanliness of Stop & Shop locations, which is never something you want to worry about when you're shopping for produce. 

Best: H-E-B

H-E-B is a popular chain of grocery stores based in Texas that provides reliable produce selections to its customers. The company has been around since 1905 and has 325 locations in the United States. Customers rate the grocery chain highly across the board, including produce variety, prices, and cleanliness. H-E-B ranked in the Top 15 of a best grocery store survey and continues to set high standards for how its stores are run. 

It's a well-earned reputation since H-E-B goes out of its way to offer the freshest selections from local farmers. Many of the selections found at H-E-B stores are locally grown by farmers who produce succulent fruit and vegetables. You will have your pick between produce that you can purchase individually by the pound and pre-wrapped as part of the H-E-B store brand. The store even offers freshly prepared vegetable kabobs, fruit trays, and other options that make for delicious snacks and meals. 

You can shop H-E-B online to get your produce delivered or prepared for pickup at your local store. The site frequently features coupons, discounts, and weekly store specials that can help you save money on your produce purchases. You can also use the site to kick around some snack and meal ideas using a combination of the fruits and veggies that you find in-store. 

Worst: Pick 'n Save

Pick 'n Save is another chain that prioritizes low prices and ends up dropping the ball on the quality of its produce. Consumers rank Pick 'n Save as one of the worst chains in most of the qualities that shoppers seek. The majority of Pick 'n Save locations are in Wisconsin, which is a state that has far better options in the form of farmers' markets and other grocery stores. 

Several consumers have left reviews about the poor produce quality at Pick 'n Save, saying their items were soft, bruised, or spoiled. The selections are often sparse or sold out, and you won't find high-quality organic offerings like you will at other grocery stores. Pick 'n Save locations are often crowded, which also doesn't bode well for your produce shopping experience. Customers often complain about the service at Pick 'n Save locations — this goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the store has received several poor reviews from employees as a place to work. 

Best: Wegmans

Wegmans is another grocery retailer that gets a lot of love for its produce and just about every other rankable category. It's a New York-based store  founded in 1916 and has grown to 110 stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The company is family-owned and has stood the test of time because of its principles and reliability. 

This extends to the produce section since Wegmans has ties to local farmers in close proximity to each location. Its local supply of fruits and vegetables, along with a healthy influx of customers ensures that everything you buy is fresh, tasty, and colorful. Since the produce is sourced locally, Wegmans is a great store for buying organic without it hurting your pockets. When you buy at a Wegman store, you can trust that its produce managers and associates took the time to inspect each fruit and vegetable before placing them on the shelves. This ensures that safety and nutritional value are passed along to the customer each day. 

The company places a focus on serving communities by focusing on nutrition and wellness. Wegmans even provides resources to match customers with licensed nutritionists that can guide you through your meal planning. This will help you find the most nutritious recipes each week and makes your grocery shopping process more straightforward and productive. The company offers information that can help whether you're plant-based, seeking gluten-free options, are living with diabetes, or have other health limitations or preferences. 

Worst: ACME Markets

ACME is another grocery store chain to avoid if you're looking for the best value from your produce. It's a chain with 161 locations throughout the northeast. While the company has been around since 1891, the current crop of produce found in the store doesn't match its longevity and brand recognition. 

The produce quality at ACME is average to good, but customers have mostly found the prices untenable. The company has faced tremendous competition in the past several years, and today's shopper simply has too many options to justify paying these prices. Produce is the hardest area of the grocery list to budge on when it comes to price since purchases by the pound can quickly add up. This is a non-starter if you're someone who likes meal prepping and cooking most of your meals from scratch. Customers tend to have no major complaints with the service that they get at ACME, but you'll find far better value when you choose to buy your produce elsewhere.