For a couple of hours, I had Manila’s newest supermarket all to myself.
SM Aura Premier opened last Thursday. While people meandered through Manila’s latest marvel of a mall hoping to catch sight of SJP and nibbling on some canapés in between, I was all agog over SM Supermarket Aura (SSMA).
Supermarkets are one of my favorite places to spend time in and I have exacting standards about which ones I’ll frequent. It’s always been my fantasy, if you will, to browse through a supermarket without any people, allowed to take photos without being accosted by security. Finally, that fantasy came true.
SM Supermarket Aura is billed as The New Urban Market. It bears only slight resemblance to its more commonplace counterparts: the colors are more restrained, the lighting more muted. There’s a cohesiveness in design that ties in with the more discriminating choices offered. It’s a 9,300 square meter expanse divided into what are called worlds or sections (dry goods, imported, international, etc).
What I like about SSMA is that sections are clearly delineated – all I had to do was tiptoe and look up to see where I was headed. And it has what I believe to be the widest aisles of any supermarket in the country. What goes better with chips than Bundaberg and beer? Ginger beer for me please, and a Hoegaarden for my Bin. The Food Service Center is especially helpful for caterers and restaurant owners. Massive cuts of meat and fish as well as products in sizes large enough to hide an infant are all here. SSMA is equipped with Italian chillers to keep foods at proper temperatures. Notice the clearly marked designations for the respective dairies. Speaking of dairy, I whooped with joy when I saw “my yogurt.” These brands are the ones I look out for and “hoard” when I see them, so rare they are. The dairy case has an enviable selection of cheeses, certainly more complete than any I’ve seen anywhere else, plus more in the Deli section (coming later in this post). An interesting component of the meat section is the Choose Your Steak stop. Here, choose from various cuts of steak (porterhouse, sirloin, etc.) that have been marinated in various mixes – pepper grill, Italian grill, ‘good ol’ salpicao’, etc. All I have to do is pick and go. ”Wow, these are expensive freezers,” my Bin murmurs, when he see these. When selecting seafood, the customer opens the mounted glass panels and a food handler will assist in preparing the product for purchase. Nifty and impressive. Be still my beating heart: a box freezer filled with Angus beef. In the back are racks of prime rib and roast beef.
The deli area houses the prepared foods section and a bakery. But the star of this segment is the Deli and Chateau de France, a boulangerie whose products are made with ingredients flown in from France. Frankly, what blows me away are the cheese choices here (above).
SSMA has every reason to be proud of their International selection. They’ve devoted 12 shelves to imported products, more than double of what’s on offer at their other stores. They’ve got almost the entire line of Peanut Butter & Company; family sized cans of Campbell’s – and in more flavors than just Mushroom Soup, thank goodness; Sara Lee ice cream and cakes and more.
”What do you mean we’re not going to buy a pack of this Chips Ahoy Gooey??!” My Bin is flabbergasted when I tell him that we’ve bought more than enough “happy food” on this trip already. “Have you ever seen Chips Ahoy Gooey? I know I haven’t!” He snatches a pack off the shelf and races to catch up to me as I soldier to the check-out counter pushing my overloaded cart.
It might be premature for me to talk about customer service since I did have the entire supermarket to myself while shopping. Nevertheless, SSMA brims with Customer Assistants ready to answer questions, and technologically advanced scanners should make paying a breeze. There are also more than enough check-out lines to facilitate crowds and as you can see in the photo, there are select food stalls outside the paying area to assuage any gotta-eat-now grumblings.
I have high hopes for SM Supermarket Aura. It’s clean and cool and very efficient. I marvel at the selection and freshness of the food and I’m struck by the completeness offered at the household, non-food sections. The bagger boys are very helpful and don’t accept tips. Though there’s a travelator at the back of the supermarket to lead me back to my car, it’s quite the walk. It would’ve been more efficient to use the escalator that goes into the mall and leads down to the parking but weighted down with groceries, it’s not allowed. My only wish now is that SM Supermarket Aura is able to maintain this advanced level of supermarket retail that they’ve displayed and set for themselves and for discerning supermarket shoppers.
SM Supermarket Aura
G/F SM Aura Premier
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Open daily, 10am-10pm