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Amazon Fresh vs Whole Foods: Similarities and Differences

Here is an article for Amazon Fresh vs Whole Foods: similarities and differences. We break them down so you can decide which works best for you.

Grocery shoppers have been increasingly reliant on online orders to satisfy their household needs in recent years.

It’s no question that the modern options available for obtaining fresh produce, pantry staples, and other items are convenient for anyone who takes advantage of them.  

The COVID-19 pandemic was a massive boon to the grocery delivery industry, as many people declined going out in public more than was absolutely necessary.

In fact, 46% of shoppers say they use online ordering more now than prior to the pandemic—and studies show that increased number may be here to stay.

Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods are two of the largest online grocery delivery providers these days.

It’s easy to conflate the two now that the Amazon conglomerate seems to have its thumb in multiple e-commerce pies.

While it technically owns Whole Foods, the two are different in several ways.

It’s good to know what you’re getting into—especially for Amazon Prime members.

Read on to find out what Amazon Fresh vs Whole Foods means for customers, including what’s the same about these stores, what’s different, and which choice is best for you when it comes to grocery delivery.

Is Amazon Fresh the Same as Whole Foods?

Though Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, the two entities operate independently from each other.

Jeff Bezos and John Mackey each have a vision for their businesses, which provide separate services to customers.

Amazon Fresh vs Whole Foods: A Primer

Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods are comparable, but it’s worth understanding where they differentiate.

They serve different customer demographics, provide different products, and vary in delivery schedules and fees.

Whole Foods offers a narrower selection of groceries, mainly catering to the organic and health-conscious market.

As a result, their prices are steeper and their customer base more specific.

Amazon Fresh offers more affordable, everyday grocery options to a broader customer base.

You can get some of the same organic items that Whole Foods offers, but it’s not limited to this category.

There are also disparate delivery times and prices, which we’ll review later.

So, the main factors between Amazon Fresh vs. Whole Foods are the market focus, price points, and delivery options.

vector graphic showing the battle between amazon fresh vs whole foods

What Is Amazon Fresh?

A subsidiary of Amazon, Amazon Fresh is the e-commerce behemoth’s answer to online grocery shopping and delivery.

It provides customers the convenience of browsing online and then delivering the cart directly to the customer’s home.

Though there are storefronts as well, online shopping is Fresh’s forte.

Amazon Fresh offers products in the categories of food, beverages, household items, baby and pet care, personal care, and also a separate menu of local and seasonal offerings.

There are also a limited number of items available from the main Amazon store.

Customers search by zip code to link to local items, as well as ensure the items they want are in stock at the nearest location.

In 2020, Amazon Fresh introduced several brick-and-mortar stores around the U.S., including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

What Is Whole Foods?

For shopping purposes, Whole Foods hasn’t changed much from its original reputation, even after its acquisition by Amazon.

Whole Foods is a bastion of the organic foods market, which naturally comes with a higher price tag.

It reaches customers who are health-focused and don’t mind spending a little more on their groceries for the guarantee of clean eating.

Types of Orders Available on Amazon Fresh vs. Whole Foods

This is one area where the two businesses are essentially the same.

Let’s look at what types of orders each offers and how they stack up to each other.

Attended Deliveries

Both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods orders are available as an attended delivery service.

Simply note a period of time in which you’ll be home to receive your groceries, and a courier will deliver your order directly to you.

This service is great for shoppers who want to make absolutely sure their items make it to them, traveling from human hands to their own hands, without safety concerns.

Depending on your living situation, this service can work with a doorman or security guard to ensure your delivery makes it to you safely.

Virtually the only place attended deliveries are not available is a college dorm.

Deliveries to Doorstep

There is also the option of having your groceries left on the doorstep for you to pick up when it’s convenient (though for refrigerated items, it’s recommended you keep watch and bring them in as soon as possible).

Like attended deliveries, you choose a time you’ll be home, and a courier leaves the items on your front stoop or next to your door.

Doorstep deliveries aren’t available for limited-access buildings—for this, you might consider attended deliveries so an Amazon employee can navigate the layout of your residence.

When you make your order, detail delivery instructions as clear as possible (for example, “blue door next to the fire escape”) so that your groceries make it to you quickly and safely.

Pickup Orders

For customers who don’t mind traveling to the grocery store to pick up their items, this type of order is the best guarantee that your items don’t encounter any issues in transit.

Choose a time slot as little as 30 minutes from when you order, and your groceries will be waiting for you when you arrive at the store.

The Similarities Between Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods

Both are available online to Amazon subscribers.

As part of the mega-corporation that Amazon is, you can simply log in to your Amazon account to access both resources, browse the offerings and prices of each, and decide which makes sense for you to utilize for your particular shopping list and budget.

Both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods offer multiple types of delivery for those shoppers who prefer staying home or cannot get to a store to shop in person.

And both offer quick delivery, as well as rush service for an extra fee on top of their regular delivery.

The Differences Between Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods

When comparing Amazon Fresh vs. Whole Foods, there are three areas to consider: products offered, fees charged, and delivery times.

Amazon Fresh caters to a broad market and carries national food and household items brands.

Whole Foods, on the other hand, is a specialty store.

They are limited in their stock, and the bulk of their items are natural and organic with ultra-clean ingredients.

Because of this discrepancy in the selection, there is a significant price jump.

The business’ loyal customers know they get what they pay for and are willing to shell out for it.  

Delivery times vary depending on how soon you want your groceries.

Whole Foods charges $9.95 for delivery, whereas Amazon Fresh bases their fees off your grocery cart subtotal.

There are other disparities between the two that don’t have to do with product lines or service.

When Amazon absorbed Whole Foods, there were operational changes made within Whole Foods that affected the tone of the store.

For example, with the elimination of a graphic designer position and other minor employee roles, the stores lost their chalk artwork and in-store events such as a kids’ storytelling hour.

This all reflects Amazon’s move to centralize its business model to pursue profitability and more streamlined efficiency.

Is it working?

We think so.

Unsurprisingly, mega competitors such as Walmart, Aldi, and Kroger stores began offering grocery delivery in recent years, in what business experts call the “Prime Effect” (that is, an attempt to step up to the convenience level that Amazon offers their customers).

Many come with apps to download so that customers can complete their grocery purchases on their phones.

Advantages of Shopping at Amazon Fresh Stores

Being connected to advanced Amazon technology has its perks.

Below, we’ll show you the various advantages you get when you shop Amazon Fresh.

Virtual Grocery Shopping Assistant, Alexa

Amazon’s famous voice-activated technology comes in handy for grocery shopping online.

Every step of the way, there is a voice command Alexa recognizes so that you can shop and order nearly hands-free.

Thinking of things you’re running low on?

Simply say, “Alexa, add bread to my grocery list” to avoid having to grab a paper and pen to jot down your ideas as they occur to you.

Once your list is complete, try “Alexa, add strawberries to my cart” to transition your groceries from idea to concrete.

When your order is ready, you can say, “Alexa, order my groceries,” and Amazon will use your saved payment information to send your order.

If there are multiple people in your household, you can create a shared shopping list.

Each family member adds the items they want to compile a list over time—perfect for busy families who don’t necessarily have the time to round everyone up and ask what items they need Mom or Dad to pick up from the store.

Amazon Dash Cart Eliminates Checkout Lines

If you have just one or two bags of groceries, using an Amazon Dash Cart is the way to go.

The Dash technology “sees” the items in your cart and scans them in the designated lane, so you don’t need to wait in line at the checkout.

To begin using Dash, scan the QR code in the Amazon app and find an available cart.

After you make your purchase, your receipt is emailed to you.

Amazon Prime subscribers can easily add items from their Prime Pantry list to their Amazon Dash Cart—another handy feature for Prime members.

Of course, this option is for shoppers who don’t mind going to the grocery store—but it’s worth it for customers who only need a few items and want to save time.

Amazon Fresh Stores Can Be Used for Amazon.com Pickups and Returns

Though Amazon Fresh is mainly a grocery shopping resource, your regular Amazon.com purchases can also be accessed here.

Pick up your order, or return unwanted items, at Amazon Fresh locations just as you would any other store.

Amazon Fresh vs. Whole Foods: Pricing and Costs

vector graphic showing an amazon fresh customer in the process of tip amazon fresh

Delivery Costs

As we’ve mentioned, the limited selection of Whole Foods products means their pricing is steeper than the wider appeal of Amazon Fresh.

However, there are delivery variances as well.

How Much Is Amazon Fresh Delivery?

One of Amazon Fresh’s primary perks is their guarantee of a two-hour delivery timeframe from order placement to front door.

Customers get an email when groceries have been delivered—handy when you want to get back to work instead of continually peeking out the window.

The Amazon website calculates your fee based on your grocery cart subtotal.

Two-hour deliveries are free.

How Much Is Whole Foods Delivery?

From 2014 to 2018, Whole Foods partnered with Instacart to deliver groceries directly to customers’ homes.

When that business relationship ended, the prices began to climb, and customers expressed their displeasure.

As of late 2021, Whole Foods does offer delivery for the fee of $9.95.

This controversial decision stems from the fact that an Amazon Prime member already pays for a yearly membership (and at $119, it’s no wonder many of them are irate).

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Whole Foods delivery used to be free on orders over $35.

Bag Prices

Note that some jurisdictions are required by law to charge for bags.

If this is the case where you live, it will be clearly noted as a line item as part of your order.

Does Whole Foods Charge for Bags?

Yes, they charge 5¢ per bag.

However, if you bring your own bags, you’ll receive a 10¢ credit for each.

Does Amazon Fresh Charge for Bags?

Large green totes are an iconic feature of Amazon Fresh, and there is no charge for them.

The totes usually contain dry ice or ice packs to preserve cold items.

In an attended delivery, brown paper bags are more likely.

Again, there is no charge for their usage.

Is Amazon Fresh Cheaper than Whole Foods?

To Amazon Prime members, yes—because it’s free.

But that’s assuming the customer already pays each year for a Prime membership.

Amazon Fresh vs. Whole Foods: Tipping

Though not obligatory, it is customary (and polite) to tip drivers for both operations.

It’s good to know that these are not employees of Amazon or Whole Foods who receive a steady paycheck and benefits.

They are local couriers who work independently for delivery companies, making close to minimum wage and relying on the gratitude of customers’ tips for each order.

A few dollars is customary no matter what the number of groceries purchased.

Tip as you would for a pizza delivery order—more if the weather is bad or when drivers are extremely busy during the holiday season.

Do You Tip Whole Foods Pickup and Drivers?

Yes, we recommend you tip between 15-20% on your order, as is common to the service industry.

Cash is the best and easiest for the drivers, but you may also add your tip to the app when you check out online.

Do You Tip Amazon Fresh Pickup and Drivers?

Amazon Fresh automatically adds a $5 tip when customers place their orders.

The customer can change this amount if they wish or cancel the tip altogether.

Like Whole Foods, we recommend tipping 15-20%.

You have 24 hours after delivery to add a tip to your order; this can be done online by searching your order and looking up payment details.

Final Conclusion: Is Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods Better?

There will always be customers who spare no expense with their grocery shopping, preferring only the highest-quality items with a guarantee of organic production, ethical sourcing, and clean ingredients.

Despite the hefty price tag, Whole Foods is the way to go for those shoppers.

However, for most shoppers, the convenience and inexpensiveness of Amazon Fresh make it come out on top.

The fact that there are similar items available—though it doesn’t have the same inventory as Whole Foods—means that Amazon Fresh customers still get to choose many organic and local items if that is what they’re looking for.

The perks of Amazon technology are unparalleled.

And for the free delivery options and overall lower costs Amazon Fresh offers, there’s really no comparison.

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