San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Consumer rights

Study shows that Auto Mercado is the most expensive grocery chain in the country

A comparative study of prices conducted by Costa Rica’s Economy Ministry (MEIC) in 48 supermarkets across the country found huge differences in prices of basic foodstuffs.

MEIC officials Monday presented a summary of the results conducted from February 3-17. According to the study the total cost of the “basic food basket” ranged from ₡94,401 ($178.10) to ₡121,487 ($229) — a difference of 29 percent.

The basic food basket price is calculated from the average per capita consumption of 53 goods including prepackaged food, fresh products and personal care and hygiene products.

Auto Mercado is the most expensive retail chain to buy the basic basket, the study demonstrated. The Auto Mercado location in Alajuela tallied the highest price at ₡121,487 ($229), followed by the one in Tres Ríos, where it the goods cost ₡121,316 ($228.90). Auto Mercado caters to a wealthier clientele, and imports a large variety of products.

The basket with the lowest price was found at the Maxi Palí supermarket in Limón at a cost of ₡94,401, or $178.10, followed by the Palí in San Rafael of Heredia at ₡95,041 ($178.30).

The study found variations of up to 225 percent in prices for the same product bought at different retail stores.

As an example a bag of Knorr Chicken Noodle Soup cost ₡100 ($0.19) at Palí supermarkets in Puntarenas and Liberia, but the soup cost ₡325 ($0.61) at MaxiConsumo, a supermarket in the south San José neighborhood of Barrio Cuba.

The study also found that prices at the cash register were higher than those displayed on the shelves in seven of the 48 visited supermarkets.

MEIC inspectors discovered this practice at San Luis in Pérez Zeledón (43 products), Megasuper Parque de La Paz (3), Megasuper Puntarenas (4), Megasuper Limón (2), MaxiConsumo Barrio Cuba (2), Maxi Palí Alajuelita (1) and Perimercados Montelimar (1).

“All these supermarkets corrected their prices almost immediately after being warned by our inspectors,” said MEIC’s Director of the Consumer’s Rights Office Cynthia Zapata.

Contact L. Arias at

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gee cee

What surprised me is that the prices in Wal-Mart in Alajuela were higher than my Jaco Mas X Menos–same owner! Plus I seem to have a better selection in my much-smaller store.

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Auto Mercado is very expensive. But food in Costa Rica is over priced big time. The grocery store are screwing the poor who fight everyday to feed there families. Fresh Market is very expensive aswell. I went to Panama and food was 60% less than Costa Rica in price.

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