Thursday, March 29, 2012


Where I live, there is a C1000, Coop, several tokos, a greengrocer, and an Albert Heijn XL within easy walking distance. Within easy biking distance is a Lidl, an EMTE, and the Dunya. If I feel really indulgent, the farmers' market comes to Nijmegen every Saturday, and two competing Turkish supermarkets duel for customers on my way back (the best feta I've ever had--and I don't even like feta--was Turkish). I've heard rumors that there's a Jumbo somewhere in the neighborhood as well, but I haven't encountered it in my five years of wandering.

Price-wise, the best deals are to be found at the C1000, hands-down, but as penny-savvy as the Dutch are, they all seem to prefer the Albert Heijn. The vast acreage of available parking probably has something to do with this (most of the immediate neighborhood walks to the C1000), as does the inclusion of a Blokker and a C&A (clothing superstore) in the same complex. But most people prefer the Albert Heijn because, I think, it's done the best job at fulfilling the needs of the Dutch consumer. And though they may not want to admit it, that need goes beyond merely having the lowest price.

Other supermarkets may have better-quality items, or lower-priced ones, and in fact, the Lidl-- bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of pricing--has the best produce at the lowest prices. But the Albert Heijn has escaped oblivion by consistently shooting for mid-range in both quality and price, and craftily pitching itself as quintessentially Dutch in a way that no other supermarket has succeeded in. That, and the free Allerhande and Wat handig (showcasing new kitchen gadgets and 1001 ways to simplify your life) are carefully written to make cooking easy and success virtually guaranteed.

I admit that, when I first moved here, I hated the Albert Heijn commercials, with Harry's slightly doltish pitch or the cartoon hamsters. They were annoying, and sometimes a tad bit racist in that awkward you-know-they're-not-trying-to-be-racist-but-oh-boy way. But after having lived here for what's now five years, I've come to appreciate, the cunning, non-threatening way that the Albert Heijn continually adapts new tactics and methods, while simultaneously positioning itself as a bastion of Dutch-ness. It makes me wish I could market half as well as they can..


  1. Hahahaha lol. So true, when i fist saw it i was like what were they thinking ?

  2. Hehe, I just winced and thought, "They better thank their lucky stars this isn't the US..."

  3. when I first got here I would only go to the Albert Heijn but now I've be come much more money conchase and go to the c1000 or Jumbo a lot more

  4. I only go to the AH when a substantial number of things we need are deeply discounted. But I never go with my boyfriend. Completely clueless about shopping, that one... though it's possible that, as an Asian, even the Dutch are wastrels ;-)

  5. I hit the Jumbo for simple things (it's right around the corner and good for dairy, veggies, and tulips. Anything more serious, I bike over to the AH. If guests are coming, I do more with the green grocers and butchers.

    The main problem has been bread: few of the supermarkets seem to do it well, but the bakers are into fruit and nut breads. I don't want to add "Make bread" to my list of chores, and I'm probably best eating less of it anyway.

  6. Hehe, I've been spoiled by our stand mixer, to the point where homemade bread is 5 minutes' worth of work. The main bottleneck for me is not making the bread (it's a good stress reliever if you're doing it by hand--kneading is a surprisingly aerobic activity), but slicing it. These days I much prefer to buy "everyday" bread, and only make rolls when we're having a cheese fondue.