A chocolatier

Mexican Supermarket Evolution

In Correspondents Around the World by Mark Masker

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Writing and Photography by José C. Marmolejo
The restless, ever-paying-attention-to-the-customer entrepreneurs, have devised ways to keep you going back to the food store and making you spend more time and money at it. The never-stopping, always-looking-for-new-experiences customers, have been catered to, with more reasons to visit and spend more time at the Mexican supermarkets than ever before. It’s an ongoing evolution that gives consumers in Mexico more motivation to enjoy shopping in person.

mexican supermarket

In-store Mother’s Day celebration.

One of my favorite places in Mexico City for coffee, beer, tapas or fresh seafood cocktails is a supermarket. I even call it “my office.” I meet there with people socially or for business. In fact, I do some of my writing there. It’s a store where they also bake my favorite sourdough bread and the best croissants in town. Alas, no coupons, discount prices or special offers are found there, and you pay for parking. The store, however, was an instant success the day they opened. How did we get here?
glass of wine dispenser

Yes, “my office” has a machine that dispenses wine by the glass for you.

Recently, I learned that a big Asian company has people monitoring the internet for searches of products that haven’t been invented, produced or manufactured. After a few thousand searches for a particular item that doesn’t exist, it gets designed, manufactured, and sent to market. Marketers have devised a way to figure out what people dream! This is the status quo of digital marketing research. Although common sense lets you know that people do not want to drive around Mexico City to shop, “Concept Designers” have found a way to make you shop for groceries, socialize, and have a snack or lunch, while you may even settle some business issues, all in one stop.
cevicheria

There are even all kinds of ceviches to be had.

It’s a fact that today you can order your groceries over the phone and have them delivered to your doorstep or order them through the store web page and pick them up at a drive-thru in the store parking lot. But if you do that, you will be missing among other things:
Fancy meat aging glass rooms where you can pick up 2- or 3-week aged piece of beef and have it transformed before your eyes into a steak the thickness of your choice.

Fancy meat aging glass rooms where you can pick up 2- or 3-week aged piece of beef and have it transformed before your eyes into a steak the thickness of your choice.

A French patisserie.

A French patisserie

A chocolatier

A chocolatier

A European bakery, and a full blown Mexican tortillería (not shown)

A European bakery, and a full blown Mexican tortillería (not shown)

All this would be your loss if you shopped from home! What about a $15 USD Kopi Luwak espresso—the coffee beans of which are eaten in cherry form and fermented in the digestive tract of an Asian palm civet—or take home one pound of those coffee beans for only $650 USD. Do we want to miss that? Some of us will.
While I may have favorites among supermarkets, there are other stores that compete for that title. Some have the best assortment of wines…
supermarket sommelier

…with a sommelier on the premises at your request…

…or the best prices for mezcal or an Illy coffee bar or a tea bar with a different variety of tea for every week of the year.
52 varieties of tea

Yes, that’s 52 types of herbs from around the world to choose from to be infused at your request or to take home.

There are places with pizzas baked while you wait to be served at a table with full restaurant service including the bottle of wine of your choice from the store shelves, opened for you and served at store prices.
sampling asti espumante

Do you feel like champagne, prosecco or cava? No problem, pick it from the shelves and request service; a fast chilling machine will have your espumante cold within minutes and brought to your table in a bucket of ice with flutes and napkins! All of the above on top of salad bars, sushi bars, ceviche bars, sandwiches bars—the choices are overwhelming.

What happened to the supermarket with free parking, some weekday special offers, and discount coupons? It still exists but it continues tending another segment of the big market, while segmentation has brought variety, sophistication, and eccentricities.
selection from 2500+ wine labels from around the world

Check out 2500 wine labels from around the world from which to choose

Now check this one out: department stores have also jumped on the bandwagon. One store in particular has space subleased to several food vendors, serving among other things churros con chocolate, Middle Eastern food, and to top it all, a cantina with a wide selection of tequila, mezcal, and beer. Yes, all this inside a department store! Now, the Mexican gents have an amicable place to wait while the ladies do their thing. This department store is not going to die soon.
cigar store

Even the cigar selection is impressive.

All this didn’t happen overnight. It took years of research, trial and error, pricing exercises, changes and more changes, but in the end that work has produced today’s food shopping experience.
300 olive oils

Over 300 oils from which to choose. Do you remember when Target didn’t sell food? What could Sears have become had they added a food experience section?

This only illustrates how important food is and how we have been lured into sensual experiences that keep us going back to the store for more, learning about food ingredients, recipes, enticing us to cook and making us stay longer—and purchase more of course—under a roof where food and drink fantasies can come true. Ufffff!

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Managing Editor | Mark is a freelance journalist based out of Los Angeles. He’s our Do-It-Yourself specialist, and happily agrees to try pretty much every twisted project we come up with.