Have you ever wondered which budget grocer is better? Both Fresh Co. and No Frills are owned by grocery store conglomerates, with Fresh Co. falling under the Sobey’s umbrella and No Frills apart of the Loblaw family. While both offer food for less, over the years we’ve noticed some difference between the two. Is one better than the other? Check out our comparisons of the stores below to find out what we think.

Experience, Customer Service & Return Policy

Fresh Co. was quite empty at 8:30 pm on a Monday night, with few people working in general and only one cashier ringing customers through. The cashier seemed tired and the customer service was barely satisfactory. As for their return policy, it states on Freshco.com: “At Fresh Co. we stand behind our products. If you aren’t satisfied with an item, bring it back with your receipt within 14 days and we’ll give you your money back.”

The Bulk Section at Fresh Co.

No Frills was mid-way between empty and busy at 9:00 pm as it was staffed accordingly with 3 cashiers as opposed to Fresh Co.’s one. There was an abundance of flyers which highlighted the week’s deals. Having more staff meant that if you asked for assistance, it would be easier for you to get the directions or advice you wanted. No Frills’ customer service as a whole was much better. As for their return policy, the honour was the same one as Fresh Co. Perhaps it is because Fresh Co. is newer to the grocery business (they were founded in 2010) but in my opinion, it seems like No Frills seems to be more on top of their game. 

Inside No Frills

Assortment/Offerings

Fresh Co.’s variety did not compare to No Frills, as the displays were not nearly as pleasing to the eye and lacking. While observing both locations gathering content for this very article, I too shopped each grocery store. Point blank – Fresh Co. seemed to have less variety in several areas, but in particular pertaining to the kale, spinach, and salad section.

Inside Fresh Co.

Not that No Frills is perfect or high-end in any way, but for the purposes of this article, which pits the two aforementioned grocers against each other, No Frills trumps Fresh Co. in assortment. On the subject of offering and assortment, the flyer from the week I conducted this research, the Fresh Co. flyer featured 103 items on sale or promotion while No Frills featured 71 items.

Inside No Frills

Atmosphere/Cleanliness

When I walked into Fresh Co. I noticed that the lighting had a cold tint to it. There was a scent which was not appealing and there were no flyers readily available or visible for shoppers to read.

Inside Fresh Co.

No Frills was brightly lit with a warm tint, it was much more welcoming and stacked flyers featuring the week’s deal were adjacent to the grocery store entrance. No Frills appeared to be cleaner, smelt better, and offered what at least appeared to be higher quality, fresher vegetables and meat.

Inside No Frills

Prices

Both locations had sales and good deals but Fresh Co. actually had more sales and promotions on at this particular time. In terms of quality and freshness, there are some items I would buy from Fresh Co. over No Frills, like ice cream, snacks, cereal, etc. For meat and produce, I would choose No Frills. 

Inside No Frills

While all locations for any merchant vary due to geographic location, socio-economic status of customers, management, and different franchise owners, it is key that these factors are taken into consideration when comparing the two grocery stores overall and in specifics. As we know, or some of us don’t know, grocery stores generally tend to cater to the demographics of their customers and demands made by their customers. For instance, areas with a large Caribbean or Chinese presence will carry certain products often used within the cuisine of those cultures.

Inside No Frills

Fresh Co. and No Frills are some of the best-known grocery stores when it comes to deals and affordability. They release their new weekly flyer generally every Thursday and both grocers advertise their flyers online which is convenient and great for internet savvy individuals, particularly on the go and commuting from work.

Attending different No Frills and different Fresh Co. locations throughout the GTA over the years, in particular, Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, as well as Hamilton, I have noticed a marked difference. This marked difference I would say is largely reflective of socio-economic status of those who live near the grocery store albeit it Fresh Co. or No Frills. I’ve also noticed that the quality of the food seemingly is representative of the quality of the neighborhood, which is also a reflection of how a given grocery store is managed.

Do you agree? What other stores should we compare?

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