During our month stay in Albir, Spain, my parents and I have spent a lot of time in the town’s supermarkets. Being consummate shoppers and loving Albir’s supermarkets, as they and the products they sell are so different from home, we’ve become well-versed in what each supermarket sells, specific prices in each, and which supermarket to shop at for what. With four main supermarkets to choose from – Mercadona, Consum, Mendoza and Lidl – with a couple more besides, which supermarket is Albir’s best?
Mercadona – The supermarket I think is the best in Albir is the large Mercadona. Spain’s biggest supermarket chain, the Mercadona company was named the ninth most reputable company in the world in 2009 by the Reputation Institute, a NYC research company. The Mercadona branch in Albir is conveniently located at the top of town, has lots of parking (their underground parking lot is wonderful when it rains), is well-stocked and has a huge variety of products.
At Mercadona, you’ll find everything from a huge vegetable and fruit section to fresh meat, frozen meat, frozen fish, frozen foods, wine, beer and spirits, many different varieties of coffee and teas, soy milk, chocolate and candy, household cleaning supplies, make-up, toiletries, pet food and more.
Mercadona also has its own brand, Hacendado, which has some superb chocolate, potato chips, soy milk, yoghurts, milk, candy, coffee and coffee drinks and a fair number of other items. Every Hacendado product I’ve bought has been excellent and up to 30% cheaper than its closest national brand.
Prices at Mercadona are slightly cheaper than the Consum down the street, and it does have just about the best selection of items in town. Mercadona staff is generally lovely and, although none seem to speak much English, they’re always helpful, even if it means trying to figure out what you want with sign language and smiles.
Mercadona, too, is the only one of the three that has toilets for use by customers. Handy if you’re caught short in town and don’t have time to get back to your apartment or hotel. I also like shopping at Mercadona as they’re Spanish owned and operated, and it’s nice to feel as though you’re helping the ailing Spanish economy, even just a little.
Mendoza – Another wonderful supermarket in Albir, Mendoza is extremely popular with western expats, particularly Scandinavians and the British, many of whom who seem to mass there early in the morning to get their favorite specialty foods.
Mendoza is a large supermarket with a massive wine, beer and spirits section, superb fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, a nice bakery and more. Where Mendoza excels though is it’s huge selection of both Scandinavian (Norwegian, Swedish etc) foods and British food stuffs. With everything from yoghurt, cereal, cookies, chocolate, sauces, puddings, meats, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany and the United Kingdom, no European expat in Albir will ever go short of their favorite foods from home.
Mendoza also has a gorgeous coffee shop. Right in the entrance and styled like a Spanish cafe, complete with tile work and a lovely bar area. The cafe even has daily specials on breakfasts, lunches, drinks and snacks.
Lidl – Lidl is a discount supermarket, owned by a German concern. Personally, I don’t shop at Lidl as they’ve had complaints over many years about the terrible way they treat their staff – spying on them, forcing them to work long hours and even firing women who become pregnant.
The Lidl store in Albir is small, quite run down and, to my eyes, not particularly clean. Everything is squashed together, there are no breaks in any of the aisles so you have a feeling of being too close to the merchandise and too close to the customers next to you. Lidl does however have slightly cheaper prices than Mercadona but, as the store is less than a third the size of Mercadona, its stock is quite limited selling nothing much more than food and a few toiletry items.
Staff at Lidl in Albir are not particularly friendly and a security guard watches you the whole time you’re shopping. Unlike the other supermarkets too, which are open and friendly, once inside Lidl, you can’t really get out without buying something as every check-out aisle that’s not being used is blocked off, and large displays and yellow gates prevent you from getting out.
Once, while in Lidl, my parents tried to leave the store through the front entrance after not being able to find what they needed, only to have alarm bells go off and a glowering security guard show up because, with no other way out, they’d tried to exit through the entrance gate. Not surprisingly, Lidl is now the last place in Albir my parents would think of shopping.
Consum – The other popular supermarket in Albir is Consum. Located right on the main street,right across from most of Albir’s cafes and restaurants, Consum is a popular place to pop in for a couple of items as it’s convenient, clean, has good prices and the staff is very friendly.
Consum is a cooperative supermarket, so you actually feel like you’re shopping at a moral company when you shop there. Prices are slightly higher than at Mercado for many things but, at only a couple of cents per item, it’s not enough to stop me from shopping there.
The Albir Consum has a fair wine, beer and spirits section, a toiletries aisle, all the usual frozen foods, dairy products and pre-packaged frozen meals. There’s a good butchers, a large bakery section with delicious pastries and fresh bread, the fruit and vegetable section is smaller than Mercadona’s but the produce is just as fresh and prices are around the same.
I like going into Consum to pick up a few small items, as it’s located close to our hotel (the Mercadona is a much further walk) and across from the cafes we often frequent. Consum also sells a few newspapers and books at decent prices, and has a small selection of Spanish candy and chocolate.
The checkout staff at Consum is always helpful and any staff you come across in the store is more than happy to help, even with the language barrier.
Out of the four main Albir supermarkets, Mercadona and Mendoza are the best for a large shop and Consum is perfect for picking up a few items every day. Lidl I avoid like the plague as I don’t give my business to immoral companies that treat their staff like dirt.
Top photo – rows of olives at Mendoza supermarket in Albir, Spain