One only needs to step out of their homes in the UAE, and one of the things you will most likely see (apart from the abundance of shawarma vendors), will be a grocery store.
Depending on where you live, this could either be an old Arab guy with a notebook in his hand, slowly calculating your bill as he manually writes everything down in barely legible handwriting, or if you’re really lucky, a bright yellow Spinneys store with its signature waft of freshly baked goodies. Or something in between.
For our grocery staples, we usually depend on the store nearest to us, because we can’t really run to a fancy supermarket every time we have a random iced tea craving, or if we run out of eggs for breakfast. However, when we do have the time to look around, browse for things, or look for ingredients for that recipe we’ve bookmarked off the internet, many of us go to a major supermarket and sometimes come back disappointed because we don’t find what we need.
To make your life a bit easier, we have compiled a short review of the top players in the groceries industry in the UAE, to help you decide which stores best fit the demands of your grocery list.
Westzone has been around in the UAE for a long time, mainly operating in Dubai. They have recently been on an expansion spree, which means that if you live in Dubai, you’ve definitely seen that logo around. While they have a decent stock of regular brands, they mostly cater to the Filipino community in Dubai, especially in predominantly Filipino areas like Satwa and some parts of Deira. So, if you’re looking for a larger variety of Asian brands and foods, you might want to give WZ a go.
Good For: Filipino, Asian Foods.
Pricing: Average priced products, more expensive than hypermarkets, but cheaper than other stores of its kind.
A local initiative, Aswaaq provides a well-designed store, and supports local farmers through stocking UAE made produce. Situated in predominantly Emirati neighbourhoods, it also stocks a lot of traditional products from the Gulf. They seem to have a good loyalty program in place (Wafa Card), where the more you shop, the higher the percentage of cashback. Which is good if you happen to have an Aswaaq in your neighbourhood.
Good For: Emiratis, traditional Gulf spices & products that might not be widely available.
Pricing: On the higher side, but if you have a loyalty card, it averages out.
8. Hyper Panda
This hypermarket is one of the anchor stores in Dubai Festival City, situated close to furniture giant IKEA. A household name in its native Saudi Arabia, it has only the one store in the UAE. While it is not the cheapest of the hypermarkets, and does not have anything to set it apart from the others, it has a good variety of deals, and a large selection of brands available. Recommended as a go-to hypermarket for the monthly restocking of groceries if you happen to live in the area, otherwise you can give it a pass.
Good For: Monthly groceries, occasional offers & events to look out for.
Pricing: Cheaper than most supermarkets, but cannot compete with leaders Lulu & Carrefour.
Choithrams supermarkets are part of a larger T. Choithrams group, which has partnered with several well known global brands as their distributor in the UAE. As a result, there are a lot of brands that can be found exclusively at this supermarket, including the private label products of the UK’s supermarket giant Tesco. Choithrams stands out because each of their stores is tailored to meet the needs of the community or area the supermarket is located in. This means that, if you’re looking for an Indian food brand or product, you might find it at their Karama branch, and their Umm Suqeim branch might just have that European chocolate brand you fell in love with on vacation. Also, their bakery and fresh foods section is to be commended for its quality.
Good For: Variety of exclusive brands, high quality of bakery & deli foods.
Pricing: On the higher side, especially for exclusive & imported brands.
6. The Co-ops
The co-ops (or co-operative socieities) are major retail groups backed by the governments of all the emirates. The most prominent among them are Union Co-op Society & Abu Dhabi Co-op Society. The co-ops usually have massive stores (and some smaller stores). What makes them different are their inclusion of several small lesser known Gulf brands, and bulk product sizes that wouldn’t normally be found in other large hypermarkets. This is due to the mostly Emirati shoppers that the co-ops attract, who usually have large families. Prices are higher compared to other hypermarkets, but their offers are worth checking out.
Good For: Bulk purchases, Gulf & Emirati dry products and deli.
Pricing: More expensive for regular priced items, but deals have substantial price reductions.
5. Al Maya
The Al Maya group has a widespread network of supermarkets across the emirates. The supermarkets have a large variety of brands from the Indian subcontinent; as a result most of its shoppers are from this region too. It’s locations are also usually in predominantly Indian neighborhoods. Al Maya is also well known for having aisles dedicated to products that are nearing expiry, and therefore at slashed prices, often around 75-80% off their regular prices.
Good For: Indian food products, deals on products nearing expiry.
Pricing: Average prices, on the cheaper end of the spectrum.
A favorite among Western expats, it’s not hard to see why. Their bakery make fresh bagels & English muffins, fresh fruits are flown in from all over Europe & North America, and the shelves are populated with famous American & European brands. A massive variety of exclusive imported food items can be found at even a medium sized Spinneys store. Their bakery and fresh foods section is one of the best in the country, with desserts that could rival professional bakeries. High end supermarket Waitrose is also part of the Spinneys group.
Good For: European & American products, fresh high quality bakery goods & deli.
Pricing: One of the most expensive supermarkets in Dubai, good deals offered on Mondays.
The flagship hypermarket in Ibn Battuta mall, Geant has been expanding not only its hypermarket stores but also smaller supermarkets called Geant Easy, and in a first for the UAE grocery industry, a comprehensive online store. One of the best places to shop in terms of value, their stores are well designed, and have a wide variety of products available at highly competitive prices. If you live near one, it is highly recommended as a destination for bulk grocery shopping. And if you would like to switch to online grocery shopping, it is your most reliable bet.
Good For: Online or bulk grocery shopping.
Pricing: Good value for money, comparable to the top hypermarkets.
2. Lulu Hypermarket
If you live in the UAE, you have heard of Lulu. Almost as old as the UAE itself, this hypermarket chain has stores all over the UAE. Competitive pricing, a pleasant layout, constant deals and promotions and a large variety of international brands can be found at Lulu. What sets it apart from other hypermarkets? Lulu has specific sections in each aisle dedicated to imported goods, and the prices are usually more competitive because of Lulu’s international operations. Also, their main shoppers are from the Indian subcontinent, and their fresh food and deli section reflects that. The quality & taste of their fresh food however, is not up to par with competition.
Good For: Bulk groceries, variety of imported products.
Pricing: Highly competitive, one of the cheapest in the UAE.
The market leader in grocery shopping, Carrefour is a household name in the UAE. The world’s second largest grocery retailer holds the number one spot in the UAE. Having come out on top as the cheapest hypermarket in the country, head to Carrefour if you are looking for constant great deals, an effective loyalty program (MyClub card) and truly amazing customer service. Their brand variety differs by store location, but they have a large variety of popular brands. Their in-house bakery and deli section is pretty great too. Unlike other supermarkets, their smaller stores (Carrefour Market) have the same prices as the hypermarkets.
Good For: Bulk groceries, bakery items
Pricing: Cheapest in the country, great deals and offers.