When you first arrive in Israel, the supermarket scene can be one of the most intimidating scenes of all. From understanding foreign aisle labels to translating package ingredients word for word, to dealing with staff that was far from the level of customer service in America, simple grocery shopping proves to be not so simple at all. But what you, and many fellow Americans in Israel, might find most overwhelming is picking apart one supermarket for the next. What makes them different? Where is Whole Foods, and where is ShopRite? How could you know which supermarket fits your needs – health, cost, efficiency, and product quality? In this article, we lay out a list of the most common supermarkets found in Israel, and how to decide which shopping experience is most apt for you.
Rami Levy is Israel’s third-largest food retail chain but tends to be the most popular and accessible one. Rami Levy has two different types of stores – regular Rami Levy and Rami Levy Mehadrin. Rami Levy is significantly cheaper than competing stores and it has more branches than most other supermarkets. It is known for its good deals and for its variety of products. Rami Levy mostly carries Israeli products, meaning that it is not the place to find American or other imported products. Rami Levy has a proper meat and cheese counter, which allows customers to choose from fresh meat and cheese products rather than just packaged ones. It tends to be more crowded and hectic than some other supermarkets, but many customers say that prices compensate for its lack of customer service. Rami Levy branches can be found in virtually all cities in Israel, making it one of the most easily accessible supermarkets. Rami Levy Mehadrin is similar to Rami Levy in all respects, but carries exclusively Mehadrin products, therefore catering to a more religious crowd. Rami Levy Mehadrin does not contain a self-checkout, is often packed, and it is frequently even difficult to find a shopping cart, therefore making it a less convenient shopping experience.
Osher Ad is currently Israel’s fourth-largest food retail chain. It is what many refer to as Israel’s “Costco.” It’s the closest you can get. It carries both Israeli and American products and carries items in bulk. It contains not only groceries but also household products (i.e. garbage bags, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.) in bulk, similar to Costco. Items such as dairy and cold cuts and generally most products can be found significantly cheaper than in other supermarkets, including Rami Levy. Osher Ad also carries fresh fish. Most products are certified Mehadrin. Due to its items in bulk, Osher Ad is a particularly apt supermarket for large families. Its selection of items isn’t as diverse as other supermarkets, but many find that its large quantity of products makes up for the lack of diversity. Osher Ad, unlike many supermarkets, does not have a delivery option.
Shufersal is the largest food supermarket chain in Israel, with a current total of 248 stores throughout Israel. It is widely considered to have a better quality of produce than others. It has a large health-food section, with a great variety of products for food special dietary needs, such as gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free. Shufersal also has fresh cheese, meat, and often, fish, counters. There are many sales and coupons available in Shufersal, and it has good online delivery and even decent customer service. Shufersal is more expensive than Rami Levy and Osher Ad but provides a more organized shopping experience than the former two (good online shopping system, organized and clean aisles, club card, etc.). Shufersal also has a greater number of imported products than most other supermarket chains. Similar to Rami Levy, Shufersal also has a more religious supermarket chain – Yesh Chesed – which is operated by Shufersal under a different name because Shufersal operates on Shabbat, whereas Yesh Chesed is closed.
Maayan 2000 is exclusive to Jerusalem. It has many branches in Jerusalem and is bigger (and cheaper) than a makolet (a neighborhood market) but is not quite a full-sized supermarket. Prices are decent, and it often has good deals and sales. It saves the trouble of schlepping to the bigger supermarkets in outlying neighborhoods. Products and service in Maayan 2000 are similar to Rami Levy – not incredibly clean but not as hectic as Osher Ad – and tends to target a more religious demographic due to its many Chareidi hechsherim. Many of the branches are spacious and have a generally pleasant aesthetic, playing calming Jewish music, for example.
What sets Yochannanof apart from other supermarkets is its wide prepared foods section and its fantastic consumer experience. At competitive prices, it has full meat, cheese, and fish counters, as well as a fresh bakery. There is a limited selection of Mehadrin products, though they do exist. In terms of the shopping experience, consumers have widely shared that it is one of the most positive experiences that they have. The staff is polite and helpful, the stores themselves are spacious (some are even two stores) and well-organized, the stores are clean and there is even air conditioning (a luxury that many other supermarkets do not offer). Some consumers have described their shopping experiences at Yochananoff as so wonderful that they “feel as though they are abroad.”