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Today's shoppers have a myriad of choices when it comes to shopping for food in Indonesia. From the neighborhood gathering of vegetable sellers, to traditional markets, to mom and pop grocery stores to modern supermarkets ... and best of all ... the hypermarkets which have been opened with investment from foreign grocery store chains.
Today, shoppers in Indonesia, both expatriate and local, have a good choice of pleasant, hygienic surroundings in which to shop for food. The largest national supermarket chain in Indonesia is Hero. It has particular stores (Kemang, Terogong, Pondok Indah) that cater more to its expatriate customers that the other Hero stores. These stores feature a wider variety of imported foodstuffs.
In Jakarta we have, in addition, Kem Chicks, Food Hall Supermarket, Ranch Market as well as some small chain or family-owned neighborhood supermarkets. Hypermarkets include Carrefour, Makro, Lotte Mart, and the Grand Lucky. Most neighborhoods have small convenience stores such as Indomaret, Alfamart, and 7 Eleven that sell basic food stuffs and snacks. Most major malls in Jakarta have a Hero supermarket on the premises, which is very convenient.
With the increasing amount of expats, shop owners have started to cater to specific ethnic groups. For example, many ingredients that would be used to make Japanese dishes can be found at Daiso, Mall Artha Kelapa Gading, Papaya and Kamome in Blok M, and Cosmo in Wijaya Grand Center. Indians can find many spices and food needs that they require in "Little India" or Supermarket Mustafa or India Papadam, all located in Sunter. Korean expats can find Korean ingredients at Mu Gung Hwa in the Senayan area. Most of these establishments are run by people of the same ethnic background that understand what fellow patriots will be looking for and need.
Whatever style of shopping you enjoy - there is a choice for you!
A World of Choice
Today's modern Indonesian supermarket and hypermarket features a selection of local and imported canned goods, fruit, vegetables, fresh milk, dairy products, meat, household and cleaning items. The better stores feature cash registers with optic scanners for quick check out services. Full service stores have baggers, using plastic bags or recycled boxes. Some stores are encouraging their customers to bring their own cloth bags in an attempt to cut back on the amount of garbage generated by plastic bags. You can ask the baggers to help you take your groceries to your car. Some shoppers choose to give them a small tip as a thank you.
Perhaps unusual for foreign shoppers are the use of Deposit Counters in the supermarkets. Bringing bags from outside into the store premises is discouraged or not allowed. You 'deposit' these goods at a counter near the entrance, where it is safely held until you're ready to depart. Laptops or electronic items of higher value are not allowed to be left at the deposit counters as the stores do not want to be responsible for them. You are given a tag with a number when you drop off the goods and you surrender this tag to reclaim your goods upon leaving.
In some stores, small distributors open counters within the premises. When you purchase an item from them, you may be required to wait until they write up a bill listing the items and their prices, called a nota. Take the nota to the cash register and pay for these items along with your other goods. The items may be given to you, with the nota attached, or you may need to retrieve them from the deposit counter after payment has been made.
Fresh fruit is weighed in the fruit section by an employee and a label with the price is affixed to the plastic bag.
Many supermarkets offer additional services on their premises, including shoe repair, dry cleaning, pharmacy or small restaurants. This benefits the shopper in a hurry and helps makes one-step shopping possible.
A little history ...
The last few decades have seen enormous development in retail supermarkets throughout large cities in Indonesia. Prior to the development of modern supermarkets, in the cities food was sold through local traditional markets (pasar) or from carts that were peddled around neighborhoods. With industrialization, and the availability of packaged foodstuffs, Mom and Pop food outlets grew in the cities and towns.
In the 70s, consumers saw the beginning of supermarket development when Hero Supermarkets opened their first outlet in 1971. By the end of the decade, Kem Chicks (which started out selling eggs in the early 70s) and Gelael had also opened small stores in Jakarta. Duty Free stores in Jakarta supplied hard-to-find imported food items and alcoholic beverages for expatriates. Small ethnic food stores imported food items from India, Korea and Japan.
In the late 80s and early 90s, scores of new supermarkets opened. Some succeeded and opened small chains in major urban centers, others opened just a few stores in Jakarta only. Controversies arose over how the supermarkets were putting the traditional markets out of business. Supermarkets in close proximity to traditional markets were not allowed to sell fruits, vegetables and meat. In urban areas, the public had a choice and many were choosing the new modern supermarkets in which to shop.
In the 90s, wholesalers began operations: Makro (SHV Holdings of Holland). Carrefour and and Lotte Mart continue to open an ever growing number of store locations in Jakarta.
During the economic boom of the early 90s, there was a huge upswing in the importation of foodstuffs and household goods. The expatriate community, and those Indonesians who had lived overseas, were pleased to find many food items that had not been available in Indonesia previously. Prior to this period, expatriates utilized their baggage allowances to the max on home leave or trips to Singapore in order to bring in food treats from home for special meals or occasions.
In December of 2008 there was a incident in which contaminated milk and snacks from China was consumed by Indonesians which resulted in many children falling ill, being hospitalized, and some deaths. Since this incident the Food and Health Commission of Indonesia has required that all food products must be approved by their agency. This is a very timely and costly process, so some importers have opted to discontinue many items that they were previously importing. This has made the previously abundant imported items become extremely scare. If they are available, they are quite costly.
The 90s also saw the start-up of home delivery services oriented to the busy expatriate with little time to shop and to those frustrated by Jakarta traffic and long lines. Some stores continue to offer this service.
The availability of so many imported products changed drastically in early 1998 as the devaluation of the rupiah against foreign currency put the skids on importation of many items. Stock disappeared from grocery store shelves during the initial panic buying, not to be seen for a long time. Consumers soon discovered that 50% of the items produced in Indonesia were also dependent on imported ingredients, so their prices soared or production stopped. Fortunately the market has settled since that time and although imported items are noticeably higher priced than local, the prices and supply has stabilized.
Most expats are presently surprised at the variety of produce that they find in supermarkets in Jakarta. Of course you do not have the vast selection of certain items that your might find in the North American 'super stores' but a wide selection of good produce is available for consumers.
If you have any comments you'd like to share with web site readers about supermarkets in Indonesia, please contact us and we'll be happy to incorporate them into this page.
Last updated December 21, 2012.
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