People here eat quite different things from Westerners and even other Asians and as such, the supermarkets stock mostly what the locals eat. I’ve compiled a list of all the local supermarkets below and I have written a short description about the ones I’ve been to. If anyone has additional information, please feel free to email me.
Carrefour is the biggest supermarket in Taiwan and as a French company, they stock some imported items, although depending on where you live these things might sell our more quickly than in some other areas and the selection also vary. They have specials at times when they import a selected amount of items from specific countries and they’ve had a big drive for US food and Thai food in the past. They stock things like yogurt (although quite expensive), French cheese (again quite expensive), cereal (also quite expensive), a wide range of tinned and canned food and of course French wine. Some Carrefours are open 24h, seven days a week.
A-mart (Previously known as Geant) is another French supermarket chain, but generally it’s a lot more localized than Carrefour and you won’t find the same amount of imported items here. That said, A-Mart is generally a bit cheaper than Carrefour, but there aren’t as many around. A-Mart tend to stock slightly different brands and items than Carrefour and it’s a good place to have a look in if you can’t find what you’re looking for in Carrefour. Again, the various shops seems to carry different items, so just because one Geant has it doesn’t mean you’ll find it on another one. The larger the store, the bigger chance that they’ll have something a bit more special it seems.
Matsusei is a Japanese supermarket and again, they import a different selection of food, a lot of it Japanese, but also some other Asian and US items can be found here. It’s a comparatively cheap place for kidney beans and white beans in tomato sauce and a few other things like dried legumes. There aren’t that many around and the stores are in general not that big.
Wellcome is a Chinese supermarket chain and it’s not one I frequent very often. They carry more local things, but have some imported good as well, mainly from the US. As with the larger supermarkets, all branches doesn’t carry the same items, so it’s worth looking around. They do at times carry some hard to find items and are usually cheaper than Jason’s and C!ty’super on those items. Their shops are usually smaller than Carrefour and Geant, but the advantage is that all of the shops are open 24h, seven days a week.
RT Mart is a local supermarket that has a partnership with French Auchan and as such they carry a fair share of imported goods. They got a lot of own brand import items such as pasta, sauces, etc and it’s all imported from Europe and has pretty good quality. They also carry a small range of organic items, including French flour. From time to time they also have a lot special time limited imports from both Asia, Europe and the US. RT-Mart also have a large selection of imported beer and alcohol. As with most supermarkets here, the available items will vary from shop to shop, but the one in Xindian is the only one I’ve personally been to and from time to time they have a lot of good imported goods, but it’s usually not things that are in stock for long.
PX Mart is a budget supermarket, although there has popped up a lot more of these recently as they took over a government-run chain of supermarkets. They mostly sell local stuff, but tend to have a few imported items as well. Generally quite a cheap place, but doesn’t always sell things like fruit, vegetables and unprocessed meat.
You mentioned that you’d like more information about Sinon (Xinnong). It was my local supermarket in Taichung. Large branches have quite a few imported goods from south-east Asia and also from Europe. They have some stuff that people posting in the “Where Can I find” forum found it difficult to get in Taipei. However, I didn’t mention it at the time because I wanted to preserve the illusion that people down south eat zongzi and betelnut all day.
Some people, such as my old boss, think that because the company was originally an agrochemical manufacturer, they know not to let their suppliers put too much pesticide on their vegies! I’m not sure about that.
If you go there when the Sinon Bulls baseball team have just won a game, you get an automatic discount.
Taisuco, the Taiwan Sugar company, also has a few large stores in southern Taiwan and I know of one small location in Taipei, near ShiDa Rd. I don’t have any experience with these stores. They’re meant to offer discount coupon books (similar to Costco) a couple of times a year ranging from NT$1,000-3,000 in terms of discount, with with each coupon being worth about NT$100. (Thanks to TainanCowboy from Forumosa for the update)
KUMA Your’s Mart appears to be a smaller chain of local supermarkets similar to PX Mart, although admittedly I’ve never been to one.
For those with a bit more money to spend, there are also some upmarket supermarkets here, although there’s only a few of them, so you’ll have to do some traveling to get there in most cases.
First up we have Jasons, the one I’ve been to is located in the bottom of the 101 and they have a wide selection of imported food from all-over the world. They’re anything but cheap, although if you’re looking for something special, this might be a good place to find it. They’re big on organic and healthy stuff as well and if you have special dietary needs, then this might be the place for you. Don’t bother with the deli counter for sliced meats, as the staff isn’t very knowledgeable and they managed to “kill” some ham that we ordered so badly that we didn’t want to buy it. Sometimes you can score a bargain or two here, especially when they have a promotion or sale going. There’s a total of six stores spread around the island and their website is available in English.
Next up we have C!ty’super which again offers a wide range of imported goods, although more so from Japan and the UK it seems than from other parts of the world. They’ve improved over the past couple of years and they have a very good delicatessen which sells locally made pastrami and some good hams that are much cheaper than the imported options. They do of course also have a wide range of imported deli-meats and cheeses as well. This is also a good place for various other odds and ends such as German mustard, fancy olive oil and some harder to find baking ingredients. If you didn’t find what you where looking for in Jason’s, this might be the next best place to find it. This is also the only place I’ve found that sells decent cheese slicers and graters in Taiwan.
Breeze super is as far as I know, a one off supermarket located in the basement of the Breeze Center located on FuXing South Road. This is a Japanese supermarket, but they import a lot of stuff from all-over the world, although most of what they offer is available in Jason’s or C!ty’super. I don’t have a link to a website for them and if you know of one, please get in touch.
Shin Kong Mitsukoshi also has its own supermarkets, although not every store has one. They mainly stock Japanese food, but as with most of these upmarket stores, you can also find some imported items. Recently it seems like their selection of imported items from outside of Asia has shrunk somewhat, possibly due to poor sales.
Then there’s of course Costco which is the place to go to if you have a big fridge and freezer to fill. I’d suggest getting a Costco membership, it’s currently NT$1,500 for a year and you’ll save it on your first couple of trips there. It’s the cheapest place for cereal (bulk size), cheese, meat and loads of other stuff. You can also get other useful things here like bread makers, small ovens (ovens aren’t a common household item in Taiwan, but more on that another time) and just about anything else you could need for your kitchen.
IKEA also stocks a certain amount of imported Swedish food, although the selection isn’t huge, it was a great place for us Scandinavian’s to go when we had a craving for something from home, but more and more stuff are no longer made in Sweden by known brands, but rather by whatever partner IKEA wants to work with and branded IKEA. The store near the Taipei arena (inside Asiaworld) usually sells out really quick, so if you’re trying to get hold of something special, you might want to try to get to one of the other stores. They normally stock things like tunnbröd, polarkakor, knäckebröd, kaviar, jam, frozen meatballs and a selection of Swedish sweets and crisps. They also have a selection of Swedish beer and alcohol.
HOLA is a local version of IKEA to some fashion and they also sell a few food items, mostly imported things and you can find some bargains there at times. They have various size stores and the larger ones usually have a bigger selection of grocery items.
Another place that I have yet to visit that sells food in bulk is PnP food which seems to stock a lot of specialty items. They normally sell to the hotel and catering business, but they will sell to walk-ins at their warehouse address which can be found on their website. They will also order in special things for you, but be prepared to order large amounts at a time. There’s a downloadable list with products available on their website.
Other places to do your shopping in are convenience stores, there are more 7-11′s in Taiwan than in the whole of the USA and no less than 9,100 of them spread across the country with more opening all the time. Then there’s of course FamilyMart, Hi-Life, Nikomart, OK Mart, and Everyday. You can do a lot of other useful things in convenience stores in Taiwan too, like pay your bills, parking fees and collect C.O.D. packages etc. Most of the convenience stores also have an ATM. To find your local shop, either look out the window or head over to Google Maps where most of them tend to be listed these days.
It’s also worth visiting your local “wet market” which might have many of the items you’d want, especially fruit and vegetables which can be of much better quality and at lower prices than what you’d get in the supermarkets. Local stores can also stock various hard to find items and I recently found that a very local little vegetable and what not shop near where I live stock beetroot when it’s in season. The flower markets might also be good for fresh herbs, although you’d have to have space to put the plants where you live.