VIDEO: 12 unique things about shopping in a Spanish supermarket

Mountains of ham, rivers of olive oil and lakes of wine: that is what to expect when you go shopping in a Spanish supermarket.

VIDEO: 12 unique things about shopping in a Spanish supermarket
Within the aisles of a Spanish supermarket you'll come across a jamon jungle. Photo: Screengrab You Tube

But in a world where globalization is increasingly eroding cultural individualism,  what makes supermarket shopping different in Spain than anywhere else in the world?

James Blick and his Spanish wife, Yolanda Martin appear together regularly on their Spain Revealed YouTube channel and have clocked up more than 350,000 hits alone for their video exploring a supermarket in Madrid. 

Readers' tips: Which supermarket in Spain is the best to shop at 

Here's what they found out.

Within the aisles you'll come across a jamon jungle

“It’s like walking through a ham jungle,” explains Blick, a New Zealander who moved to Madrid with his Spanish wife, Yolanda, eight years ago and co-founded the hugely successful Devour Tours.

In the jamon section it’s possible to find every kind of ham product, from the cheapest at  €30 to the premium, all singing and dancing Jamon Belota de Iberica of Cinco Jotas for €569 that comes with a special ham cutting knife in a beautiful presentation box.

Expect to find two or three aisles of a large supermarket dedicated to pork products, explains Blick.

Catch of the day, even far from the coast

Even if you are nowhere near the sea, most decent supermarkets will have a dedicated fish and seafood counter to rival a quayside fish market. 

Offering everything from frozen sea snails and shrink wrapped razor clams to fake baby eels, the employees behind the counter will give advice on what’s good for what, and how to cook it.

Got milk?

An enormous part of every supermarket is dedicated to UHT milk. Whereas as fresh milk will be contained within just  one shelf in the refridgerated section, it is cartons of the diary product that is pre-treated at high temperatures that most Spaniards will buy.

Pigs snout and skinned rabbit.

From packets of skinned rabbits to vacuum packed pigs ears, and a pair of pig snouts, the fresh meat section has as many different cuts as you'd find at a village matanza.

Ready meals?

If you don’t feel like attempting  to cook up a Spanish classic  yourself, then there’s always ready made canned stews.

Traditional favourites include Cocido Madrileño, Callos or fabada.

Spain sells terrible coffee

If you are a coffee connoisseur, then buy Natural over Mezcla and avoid Torrefacto at all costs!

The best thing since sliced bread?

For breakfast, there’s donuts, magdalenas and pan de leche. Sliced bread can be kept for days before it goes mouldy.  And there really is a bestselling brand called Bimbo!

Potato chip flavours are different

 Potato chips – or crisps for those who grew up in the UK –are different in Spain. For starters, there is a big selection of Jamon flavour, even gourmet jamon iberico flavour for those with superior taste buds and a budget to match

Or you could try “ajo and perejil” – garlic and parsley flavour. Spain even has a “huevo frito” – fried egg – flavour.

Tinned seafood is a delicacy

It’s very likely that before you came to Spain, a tin of sardines or a can of tuna were about as far as you ever went in the conserved seafood department. In which case, you have a whole treasure trove of tinned delicacies to discover!

Start with mejillones – mussels – and work your way through razor clams and cockles to octopus tentacles and squid in its own ink.

Olive Oil

Spain makes around half the world’s olive oil and this section of the supermarket can be rather overwhelming

For €3,59 per litre for the cheapest to the very pricey organic boutique extra olive oil at more than €8.60 for half a litre tin.  

You could spend hours here trying to work out which one to  buy.

Brand names can be hilarious… and sometimes racist.

To get your clothes clean, buy Colon. For bread, Bimbo is best and coffee could end up driving you bonkas. Look out for those brand names that simply wouldn’t translate well back home.

Spain sells a popular brand of candy called Conguitos. That translates as “little people from the Congo” or something, and in case you were in any doubt as to what they mean, the characters on the cover are chubby black babies with big red lips.

You can buy wine for €0.90 a litre!

Blick found Elegido – The chosen one – that sells for just €1.96 a litre.

Supermarkets aren’t the best place to buy wine, we would recommend making a trip to the source and visit the bodegas themselves!

But a supermarket does offer a huge selection from the cheapest cartons of plonk at 90 cent a litre to the top of the range 2005 vintage of Vega Sicilia at €259.

Blick recommends spending over €6 to get a pretty decent bottle.

James Blick is the co-founder of Devour Tours and hosts the YouTube channel Spain Revealed. Follow his adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to his videos.

Member comments

  1. Bimbo isn’t Spanish, it is Mexican. Group Bimbo also makes Sara Lee frozen desserts and New York Bagel Co. bagels.

  2. I remember some years ago, there was a company selling crisps with the name “BUM”. I haven’t seem them around for a while!

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Could Kola-Coca, the drink produced in a small Valencian village, have been the inspiration for the world-famous soft drink, Coca-Cola?

Did Spain make Coca-Cola before the US?

Coca-Cola, or coke as it is often referred to, has become one of the most popular drinks around the world since it was invented in 1886 in the United States. It has also become the drink most synonymous with American culture and the secret formula has been patented there too. 

Despite this, in the small town of Aielo de Malferit almost 140 years ago, three partners, Enrique Ortiz, Ricardo Sanz and Bautista Aparici, set up a distillery, which later went on to supply drinks to Queen María Cristina, who was married to King Alfonso XII, and the rest of the royal household. 

READ ALSO: How the Spanish sport Padel is winning over the world

Among the drinks that they created, the most popular by far was the ‘Jarabe Superior de Kola-Coca‘. It was made from kola nuts and coca leaves from Peru, and was dubbed by locals as ‘Heavenly Anise’.

The drink became so successful and popular that in 1885, one of the three founders, Bautista Aparici, travelled to the US to promote it and present the product to consumers in Philadelphia. 

He then returned to Spain, but a year later in 1886 in Atlanta, the pharmacist John Stith Pemberton invented the famous Coca-Cola. Sound familiar?

Whether this was a coincidence or not is open to interpretation, but what is even more interesting, other than the similar name, is that the drink contained basically the same ingredients as the Spanish Kola-Coca too. 

READ ALSO: Why a mouse called Pérez is Spain’s tooth fairy

When it was first created, the basic ingredients of Coca-Cola were just coca leaves, cola nuts and soda water, the same recipe that was made in Aielo in Valencia, except, they used cold water from the region, instead of soda water.

While Coca-Cola went from strength to strength and finally achieved world domination, the distillery in Valencia went on to produce other drinks. 

Then in the mid-1950s, Kola-Coca disappeared from sale when it is said, that representatives from the Coca-Cola company visited the Aielo factory to buy the patent for the ‘heavenly anise’ drink. 

Although there is no material evidence of this patent ever exchanging hands, it’s interesting to think the inspiration for this most American of drinks could have originated in a small village in Spain.