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Price Check: Essence of Life versus Tutti Frutti

It's my weekly ritual. Every Sunday I make the trek to Essence of Life in Kensington Market to stock-up on tofu, nuts and an assortment of natural, organic and wheat-free treats. I'm a loyal fan. Their prices are a steal and selection tough to beat even when compared to more well known outfits like Noah's and Whole Foods.

That said, I sometimes cheat. Every once in a while, I wander a few doors north to Tutti Frutti, their main competitor in the soon-to-be escalating Kensington Market "health food" wars.

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The two stores have a similar feel. They're both crammed with goodies and even in minus 15 weather like today stock bags of cereal and chips out by the side-walk. I've shopped at both quite happily but for one subconscious reason or another always come back to Essence.

Today I decided to do my own little investigation. Why would I shop at one store over the other? I find the customer service about equal, they're both clean and the location is basically the same. That narrows my key criteria down to two things - selection and price.

First, the price check. Comparing a random sample of ten goods, I found the results somewhat surprising. Only four of the ten items had the same price and there was enough price variation among some of them to actually get me to question my shopping habits.

Here's what I compared:

Koyo Natural Rice Cakes
Hanamaruki Miso Paste White Type
So Nice Peach Soy Yogurt
Tamari Almonds (bulk)
Spectrum Natural Canola oil 750ml
Nature's Path Mesa Sunrise Cereal Eco-Pac 750g
Kettle Potato Chips 150g
Organic White Basmati Rice (bulk)
Organic Red Lentils (bulk)
Hemp Plus Organic Waffles 312g

The prices of rice cakes ($.99), potato chips ($1.99), basmati rice ($1.99 Lb) and cereal ($5.99) were the same. Essence was cheaper when it came to red lentils ($2.19 Lb / $2.69), frozen waffles ($3.99 / $4.19) and tamari almonds ($6.99 Lb / $7.49). Tutti Frutti prevailed in miso paste ($4.99 / $5.99), soy yogurt ($2.69 / $2.99) and canola oil ($5.29 / $6.99).

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Overall, a shopping basket full of all these items would have cost $38.30 at Tutti Frutti and $40.10 at Essence. Tutti Frutti wins.

As I stared at my calculator I began to wonder what would become of my routine? How could I ever buy soy yogurt at Essence again knowing I'd be saving three dimes a tub at the place up the street? But what to do about the lentils? Maybe I should just drop the whole organic thing?

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The reality of the matter is that, aside from price, there really are reasons why I might want to go to both stores. Tutti Frutti has a far superior selection of bulk spices, flour, cereal and rice. But they fail to stock some of the essential items on my weekly shopping list.

Essence has a better selection of soy products such as tofu, ice cream, cheese and yogurt. They have bulk tahini, peanut and apple butter while Tutti Frutti just has the bottled variety. They also have more snack foods like chips and energy bars and a decent selection of organic vegetables.

Essence of Life, 56 Kensington. 416.597.2176
Tutti Frutti, 64 Kensington. 416.593.9281


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