Soulless supermarkets make your Monday blue

OK, Mondays are always bad but today was especially horrible. Getting up from bed was almost impossible, it was cold outside and I just missed the tram to work. The day continued with meetings without meaning, dullish routine tasks and a strong feeling of I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE AND TRAVEL TO A PARADISE ISLAND – NOW!!!

Well, a miracle didn’t happen so I tried to cheer myself up with some shopping – a trick that never works. Well, I found a skirt and a shirt  that I “really need”.

The anticlimax of the day was a visit to our supermarket, Alepa, where I stopped for some milk and fruit. The visit made me angry. Why? Because the Finnish supermarket scene is overdominated by a couple of companies and because of that we have no choice but to consume overpacked, tasteless products – produced sometimes too far from home. That’s so wrong!

A typical Alepa in a suburb of Helsinki. Grey. Credit: Alepa (I guess?)

Alepa belongs to Helsinki Cooperative Society Elanto (HOK-Elanto), which tells on its webpage that it “provides benefits and services for residents of the Greater Helsinki area.” The idea of 55 000 member-clients who own the company is nice. But of course it’s not that simple. They give us the typical green S-cards and small discounts but for that we suffer controlled prices and limited (bad) selection. I guess all the Alepa’s across Finland are packed with the same products. All this is just… sad.

Supermarket blues. Credit: HOK-Elanto

Only in Helsinki HOK-Elanto has over 300 stores. That’s a lot for for a relatively small city.

Of course, in old times everything was better. Many foreigner complain about these monopolized supermarkets (with a reason!) but before also we used to have small, cozy specialized shops for meat, milk, bread… like they still do in Southern Europe etc. It’s a tragedy that we have almost lost all that now – for a lot worse!

Even HOK-Elanto shops used to look nice. Customers buying meat in 1954.

Pharmacies used to look like this.

HOK-Elanto bread shop in 1930s. With a style.

More photos on Helsinki City Museum webpage.

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9 thoughts on “Soulless supermarkets make your Monday blue

  1. Christina says:

    Wow I never knew it was like that. Very informative post, stop by and I hope the rest of your week is better 🙂 http://saltpepperbrilliant.wordpress.com/

    • annasofiaj says:

      Thank you, Christina! Sure it will – after Monday it’s all uphill! I wish you a nice week too! 🙂 And yes, the situation of the supermarkets is not good at all: we have lost most of the nice little shops because of this monopoly. Let’s see what happens in the future…

  2. Christina says:

    Your right it is all up hill after monday haha hopefully the market situation will change for the better 🙂

  3. Siri says:

    This post is really cool (just as your whole blog). I live in italy (ps. Nice to meet you! I’m a new follower 🙂 ) and here we still have – as you said – small specialied markets, honestly I don’t know for how long, because they are suffering huge crisis (well everyone in italy is, right now, actually :/ ) and they are forced to keep prices slightly high, that’s why lots of people here prefer discounts shops like lidl. It’s all imported and it’s cheaper. Of course quality is not that great – especially meat and fruit/vegetables wise, but you do all you can to survive the month 😉
    What about other Supermarkets? Usually – at least here – the bigger they are, the more they have, and I’m talking also about bio-products, import food, self-service soaps and so on, that makes them a little bit soulless in my opinion 😉
    Have a nice week 🙂

    • annasofiaj says:

      Hello Siri – thank you and pleased to meet you too! 🙂 Yes, you are lucky in Italy to still have more specialized supermarkets and shops (like we used to have here). It’s quite sad what has happened in Finland, and in quite a short time! When my parents were young there was no lidl and these other 2 dominating chains: K and S-market.

      Anyway, little by little people are starting to notice that this is not good – they miss the natural products from local farms and personal service. There are already some “retro” farm markets, but they are still very expensive… I’ll write about them more in the blog soon. So let’s see what happens!

      I wish you a happy rest of the week and weekend!

  4. SarahBellzz says:

    Are they competitive? Here in the states, we are so over saturated with supermarkets, discount chains, generic brands, you often forget what you went to the store for in the first place, sensory overload.

    • annasofiaj says:

      Definitely they are! And the sad thing is that cheap prices are what mostly matter to them (especially to our S-supermarket chain, the K-market is a bit better, as they have quite a good selection of organic products etc) Anyway, it’s also ours (customers) fault to accept all this – we keep buying the industrial stuff filled with additives and produced in some “low-cost” country… Let’s hope people would get more conscious – soon!

      • SarahBellzz says:

        There are markets here where the Organic prices are ridiculous, you are almost forced to buy the “imported” selection. But, we are also going through this phase where they are starting to mass-market “organic”. That is one of the things I enjoy about living in New York City (born & raised here) We have green markets popping up everywhere, also food co-operatives, the prices are a tad higher, but you actually feel better paying for items.

        We have an issue here in New York with People on public assistance, the prices on groceries have gone up so much that they are claiming that this is the cause for the obesity epidemic, because the lower income beneficiaries of public assistance will opt for the cheaper/fattier options rather then the fresh produce and healthier products.

        Love your blog BTW.

      • annasofiaj says:

        Yes, you’re lucky to live in New York City. I’ve been there a couple of times and I really fell in love with the food-cooperatives and organic markets… and I guess the prices go down little by little when it all becomes more “mass-friedly”. Very slowly it’s happening here too. Well actually Finns buy and consume quite a lot of organic products already and some supermarkets won’t sell anything else but organic fruit etc. Even one of the big chains (Siwa) now only has organic bananas. These are small steps towards better, I hope.

        BTW the same debate about obesity and cheap, bad-quality food is going on here! It’s curious, as people complain that they become fat because they don’t have a choice but to buy cheap fatty products – they surely have a point but it’s also true that fresh potatoes are a lot cheaper than chips etc. Anyway, now the state is taxing harder most of the unhealthy products, so let’s see what happens…

        And thanks so much for your excellent comments, it’s so interesting to hear what’s happening over there!

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