An Asian supermarket is a category of grocery stores in Western countries that stocks items imported from the multiple countries in East, South and Southeast Asia. It is important to note that "supermarkets in Asia" generally (except for the Middle East) have no equivalent to the "Asian" supermarkets of the West, foodstuffs in each respective Asian country have vastly different regulations and supply chains from one another, they are localized for each countries' tastes and only carry locally approved items for that market. Examples of this: seaweed snacks, originate in Japan where they are salty or savory, in Thailand they are often spicy and locally produced.
Asian supermarkets carry items and ingredients generally well-suited for Asian cuisines and simply not found or considerably more expensive in most Western supermarkets (due to low turnover and small quantities).
The Asian market category is a local food store to primarily cater to a single particular Asian cultural group, but additionally caters to other immigrant groups who do not have easy access to foodstuffs from their country of origin. These markets go farther than a typical market in that they sell quintessential general merchandise, goods, and services related to specific Asian countries of origin and immigrant communities. They are prevalent in Asian enclaves in the United States and Canada. Urban centers such as New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Seattle have Chinatowns, Little Indias, Koreatowns, or Japantowns and other ethnic neighborhoods with specialty small business, but surrounding areas or smaller cities will have Asian supermarkets providing the same but reduced amenities for the same purposes.
Sometimes, there is an Asian-themed strip mall surrounding the market. The markets are generally ethnocentric and may be a mainly Chinese, Japanese or Filipino market; however in many areas such supermarkets cater to a more diverse Asian population as a means of financial diversification. It is this diversity that led to the establishment of Pan Asian goods in a one-stop shop with aisles selling foods in common and others dedicated to other groups such as Pakistani, Indian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai, Samoan, Taiwanese, Korean, and others. The Pan-East-Southeast Asian concept is especially common particularly in Chinese supermarkets, as the pan-South Asian concept is common among South Asian oriented stores.
Despite sourcing from many multiple nations, items stocked are very different depending on their target ethnic market. For example, in Chinese and Vietnamese supermarkets it is common for dead animals to be hung on hooks for display; in Japanese supermarkets this would be completely taboo. Chinese supermarkets may carry Japanese products but the range of selection would be very limited as compared to a Japanese supermarket. For example, for green tea, in a Japanese market, an entire isle may be dedicated to it, stocking a wide variety and grades of regional loose-leaf teas, whereas the Chinese market may simply carry a few brands of Japanese tea bags and bottled teas.
Japanese supermarkets also diversify and carry some Hawaiian and Korean products, likewise Korean supermarkets do carry some Japanese products. Filipino big-box supermarkets would have a large amount of Filipino specific products that may be hard to find in other Asian supermarkets.
Though most Asian supermarkets tend to be neighborhood oriented, small and independent and may carry the similar or even the same names, there are large chains of stores which have popped up, many having the floor area of comparable American supermarket chain stores. Among the largest is 99 Ranch, with 37 locations.
Major chains include:
- Chinese and Pan-Asian: Hong Kong Supermarket (US), Kam Man Food (East Coast US), Hoo Hing (UK), Miracle Supermarket (Australia-New South Wales), T&T Supermarket (Canada), Grand Asia Market (US), Oceans Fresh Food Market (Canada-Ontario), G&L Supermarket (Good Luck Plaza 好運廣場) (Chinese, Southeast Asian, Indian, Korean and Japanese) (Australia-New South Wales) Asian Foods 亞洲食品 (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean, Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Filipino and Korean) (Australia-Queensland)
- Filipino and Pan-Asian: Seafood City (US-California, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Illinois), Island Pacific Supermarket (US-California), Manila Oriental Market (Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Korean) (US-California)
- Hawaiian and Japanese: Marukai Corporation U.S.A. (US-West Coast and Hawaii)
- Indian and Pan-Asian: Patel Brothers (US), MKS Spices 'N Things (Australia-Victoria), Asian Food Centre (Canada-Ontario), Subzi Mandi (Canada and US), India Town Food Centre (Canada-Ontario)
- Japanese: Mitsuwa Marketplace (US), Nijiya Market (West Coast US), Uwajimaya (Greater Seattle and Greater Portland, OR), Tokyo Central (Greater Los Angeles), Yaohan (defunct)
- Korean and Pan-Asian: Hmart, Assi Market (Canada, US, UK)
- Taiwanese: 99 Ranch Market (US), Marina Food (US-NorCal), T & T Supermarket (Canada)
Due to concentration of immigrant communities in metropolitan areas, few Asian supermarket chain stores are located in non-metro areas. In order to better compete and serve this market, a few of these chains have begun online sales, which compete directly with the likes of general online merchandisers such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, OrangeNow.com and Rakuten.
Most of these supermarkets are started and operated by Asian immigrant entrepreneurs and their families. Others are started by investors of existing corporate conglomerates already headquartered in Asia, namely Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Asian supermarkets can range from small mom-and-pop grocery stores to large big-box stores and may cater specifically to one ethnic Asian immigrant group or to a wide pan-Asian crowd. They serve the generally unserved or underserved immigrant and descendant population. They are usually the main attraction for food shopping within overseas Asian shopping malls and Chinatowns. Asian supermarkets may re-occupy older buildings formerly anchored by mainstream regional or national supermarket chains.
Chinese shopping centers and supermarkets have been constructed using traditional Chinese architecture, and provide services catered toward immigrant customers. Examples include Asian restaurants, beauty salons, bakeries, foreign film rental stores, travel agencies, book stores, and other businesses.
In recent years, some mainstream markets have attempted to compete with Asian supermarkets for the minority customer base by stocking certain Asian goods as well as directing marketing towards various Asian ethnic immigrant populations. Conversely, some Asian supermarkets attempt to appeal to the general population. Asian markets are reputed to have lower prices than the mainstream chains.
Asian supermarkets represent a new trend in which Asian immigrants no longer settle in old enclaves such as Chinatown, San Francisco but in suburbs where shopping centers provide services as well as cultural amenities such as hosting ethnic festivals, shows and dance.
One of the major redevelopments highlighted in the press has been Buford Highway in the Atlanta suburb of Doraville, Georgia, where Asian supermarkets have done brisk business in a once-blighted neighborhood. Such supermarkets have also revitalized the once-rundown sections of Bellaire Blvd in Houston, Texas, and turned it into a thriving new Asian shopping district. There are also many competing Chinese supermarkets in the Southern California Chinatowns and Vietnamese markets anchoring communities such as Little Saigon.
|Vegetable||laver (gim/nori), bamboo shoots, bok choy, bean sprouts, welsh onions, ginger, kang kong, mustard greens|
|Grain||jasmine rice, basmati rice|
|Beverage||soy milk, chrysanthemum tea, bubble tea, sake, soju, green tea, thai iced tea, oolong tea, Ramune|
|Seasoning||chili, soy sauce, Pho soup base|
|Ingredients||black bean, century eggs, ginseng|
|Packaged snacks||prawn crackers, Pocky, rice cakes, Tobi nuts, dried Jackfruit|
|Merchandise||rice cookers, woks, fashion magazines, newspapers, cigarettes|
|Bakery||Chinese pastries, Curry puffs|
|Seafood||fish, shellfish, sushi|
|Delicacies||sea cucumber, shark fin, abalones|
- Chinese Supermarkets
- Great Asian Malls & Supermarkets
- Why Asian Food Saves You Money—comparison between Asian supermarkets and mainstream supermarket chains
- "The New Chinatown? Try the Asian Mall", The New York Times—article on the growing trend of Asian supermarkets in the United States
- Asian food dollars go east—article on impact of Asian supermarkets in New Zealand
- "Grass Jelly, Anyone? 99 Ranch Brings Asian Flavor to East Bay"—newspaper article from Berkeley, CA
- Vietnamese Grocery Supermarket Search