Many Nice Places for Shopping
Enrique Uribe established the country's first supermarket in 1960 after making a trip to the United States to observe successful supermarkets in operation. That trip was made possible through the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development that was interested in promoting new techniques in retailing in the country. Uribe's Mas x Menos and Palí supermarkets eventually became the largest food store chain in Costa Rica.
As the largest Costa Rican created company, Corporación Mas x Menos also has holdings in real estate and financial services with part ownership in international hotels. It also owns other supermarkets in several Central American countries. In November 2001, all of Uribe's supermarkets were merged with the Dutch giant Royal Ahold, owner of several thousand supermarkets worldwide. At the Palís, which many consider sell at less cost than the Mas x Menos, you have to buy the bags and pack your own purchases. This is an inconvenience, but you'll be certain of getting a good price on what you buy. Also a member of the group, Hipermás, of which there are now several in the San José Metropolitan area, sells, besides food, electric appliances, furniture, clothing and gardening supplies. The Automercados have excellent products and a wider selection from which to choose. These cater especially to a more up-scale consumer.
Other competing supermarket chains are the Perimercados and MegaSupers. The latter are owned by the Italian Zeta Group. All these supermarkets are permanently engaged in price wars to see which offers more for less, so keep posted by searching in the local newspapers for their ads. You might find some good deals.
The PriceSmart stores, with locations in Zapote, Guachipelin and Heredia are of American ownership. They're membership buying stores and are advantageous if you have a big family or need to buy large quantities of any one product. My wife and I prefer to buy food at supermarkets and hard-to-get items in specialty stores, because these offer better prices for small quantities.
Now that globalization has forced the lowering of import duties and entrenched itself in the economy of the country, you now can see in supermarkets a wide variety products that before were very expensive. Such is the case of fresh salmon, wines, jams, jellies, peaches and prunes which are coming from Chile and innumerable canned and frozen foods from the States, Mexico and Europe. Even canned quail eggs from Thailand and canned palmito (heart of palm) from Peru are available although these are also produced locally. Much frozen food is imported from the States.