In this Quick Hit we have to mention something about Switzerland’s grocery stores. Switzerland has a number of grocery store chains including Denner, Lidl, Avec, Proxi, Aldi Suisse (don’t mention this one to Swiss people, though), Spar and so on. But if you want to really talk about grocery stores in Switzerland, there is only one discussion: Coop versus Migros.
Both Migros (pronounce ME-grow) and Coop (pronounced like cope) are Swiss-run grocery store chains based on the co-op philosophy. You are not just a customer, you are part owner. Their primary difference is that Coop has a large selection of brand-name items, and also carries products with any of their various Coop labels (indicating various levels of quality and, therefore, varying prices). Migros, on the other hand, predominantly carries products that are made specifically by, or for Migros. Want Ovomaltine? You have to go to Coop. In fact, for a long time Migros would not sell Rivella, Switzerland’s national drink, but a knock-off called “Mivella.” Migros has softened their stance and there are certain brand-name products you can buy there including Rivella, Coca-cola, Nutella, Thomy (makers of mustard and mayonnaise), etc.
The other major difference is that Migros will not sell alcohol or tobacco. Never have, never will. Coop is happy to serve your vices up alongside fresh meats, cheeses, veggies, and anything else you could want.
But both Migros and Coop are more than just grocery stores… they are Swiss instiutions, aimed to offer ANYTHING you could want. Both have grocery stores, hardware stores, sporting goods stores, gas stations, travel offices, electronics stores, banks, clothing stores, fitness centers, furniture stores, bookstores, adult education centers, golf courses, and just about anything else you can think of.
While Switzerland is decidedly neutral, politically, they are fierce loyalists when it comes to their grocery stores. I have been in the middle of a conversation with Swiss friends who turn their nose up in disgust at someone else for being a “Coop person.” I have also been in conversations where people get so fiercely upset with Migros for not carrying their favorite brand of something or other. Simply put, when you have company over for a party, shop carefully, and hide your packaging!
Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.