Supermarkets, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Public Services I
Retail Food

The primary outlet for retail food in the United States is the supermarket. Supermarkets carry a large number of brands for each item. In suburban areas supermarkets can be immense, with pharmacy departments, a branch of a bank, on-site bakeries, even aisles where you can buy motor oil and hardware. A truly giant supermarket might have a separate aisle for dog food and another for cat food. Many supermarkets have coffee shops with seating inside their stores, salad bars and prepared food bars with facilities for consuming the food right on premises. In center-city and some rural areas, a supermarket may well be small, with a far more limited range of goods.

In America, a trip to the supermarket can be a major expedition. Financially astute consumers often make shopping lists in advance, and take advantage of “cents-off” coupons and weekly specials.

Supermarkets offer products under their own brand names as well as national brands. The supermarket brands cost less. Supermarkets also offer products in “generic” or “no name” packages, which cost even less. Often these products are exactly the same as the more expensive, nationally advertised brands.

Specialty groceries exist in several types. The Trader Joe's chain, one of the nation's most profitable, offers an array of hundreds rather than thousands of appealing goods, mostly foods, often natural, and commonly under its own brand name. The Whole Foods Market chain has a larger array of products, including nutritional supplements and vitamins, special soaps, “green” cleaning products, organic produce, meats and fish, baked goods, cheeses, gourmet foods and nearly the full range of products sold in a conventional supermarket, all considered natural, earth friendly, and otherwise appealing to its upscale, environmentally and health-conscious consumers.

The availability of alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and spirits in supermarkets depends on the laws of the individual states. In some cases, these beverages are sold in the aisles mixed with the normal array of products, in other cases they have separate sections, or even stand-alone stores next door to the supermarket.

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