SHARE
COPY LINK

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Everything you need to know about supermarkets in Austria

Austria has a wide selection of quality supermarkets but there are some key regional differences to be aware of, as well as Sunday trading laws to get used to.

Supermarket
How to navigate the confusing world of Austrian supermarkets and save money on your food shop. Photo: Tara Clark/Unsplash

For newcomers to the country it can be hard to know where to find cheap food or which supermarket stocks a good selection of international brands, but here’s what you need to know before heading out for your grocery shop.

Trade laws in Austria

One of the big differences for many international residents in Austria is that most supermarkets don’t open on a Sunday due to trade laws that prohibit shops from operating.

This means that if you forget to stock up the fridge on Saturday, you will have to wait until Monday morning to go to a supermarket.

READ MORE: How to drink coffee like an Austrian

There are exceptions to this rule though, with a small number of stores allowed to open, especially those near big train stations. In some tourist areas (like the Alps) Hofer supermarkets are open on Sundays during the peak holiday times in winter and summer while some Eurospar supermarkets also open on a Sunday but with limited hours.

Also, following the latest Covid-19 lockdown in Austria, all shops will be allowed to open on Sunday 19th December 2021 to make up for lost Christmas trading time, although this is not expected to become a regular occurrence.

Additionally, supermarkets in Austria are allowed to sell alcohol (unlike in the Nordics for example) and most have an in-store bakery.

Supermarkets close early in the evening (around 7pm), which can be a shock to people from places like the UK where most supermarkets are open until 10pm or 11pm.

And one quirk that isn’t a law, but more an unwritten rule, is that Austrian checkouts tend to be quite hurried affairs, and this is especially true for discount supermarkets. Unless you’re particularly skilled bag-packer, expect to have to put your shopping back into your trolley while you’re paying, and sort it into your bags in the packing area, rather than bagging up at the checkout.

Regional differences in Austria

Austria is home to a number of supermarket chains that operate nationwide but there are a few regional differences too. For example, MPreis is a supermarket mostly located in Tyrol with a few branches in Vorarlberg, Salzburg, Carinthia, Upper Austria, Styria and even South Tyrol in Italy.

FOR MEMBERS: Seven aspects of Austrian culture foreigners should embrace

Until recently, Merkur supermarkets were common in the east of Austria until stores were replaced by the Billa Plus brand (which is owned by Germany’s REWE Group, the same parent company as Merkur).

And if you live in one of Austria’s bigger cities, like Vienna or Graz, residents mostly shop at smaller supermarkets like Spar and Billa, with the larger stores located in the suburbs.

Supermarket chains in Austria

Spar

Spar is a Dutch-owned supermarket chain and is the most common store in Austria with more than 1,500 shops across the country. It became the market leader in Austria in 2020 with sales of €8.3 billion.

Interspar is the hypermarket version of this brand, followed by Eurospar that offers a wide selection of food and drink. Then there is Spar Gourmet, which is a “lifestyle supermarket” in Vienna and the surrounding area where you will find a few more high-end items alongside the usual selection of basics.

On a national level, Spar recently announced a partnership with food waste reduction company Too Good To Go. This means users of the Too Good To Go app can pick up food that would otherwise go to waste from Spar, Eurospar and some Interspar stores.

Loyalty card: Spar doesn’t have a specific loyalty card but instead shoppers can collect tokens to receive discounts up to 20 percent.

Own brands: Spar has a range of in-store brands, but the most notable are Spar Premium which is meant to signal higher quality, S-Budget for price-conscious shoppers and Spar Free From for lactose and gluten-free products.

Billa

Billa has more than 1,000 stores across Austria and can be found in most towns and cities. It is easy to spot with its bright yellow and red branding and is known for stocking regional produce.

Billa operates the larger Billa Plus stores in some locations, as well as an online shop for click and collect orders. Billa Plus offers even more regional products than the regular Billa shops and promises more price reductions as a result. All stores have a bakery, a meat counter, a fish counter, take away coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Loyalty card: With the jö Bonus Club customers can collect one point for every Euro spent in Billa and Billa Plus, as well as in all partner stores, including Zgonc, Pearle, Verbund, BIPA, Libro, Penny Markt, Pagro Discount, OMV, Billa Reisen, ADEG, BAWAG PSK, Interio and mjam.

Own brands: Billa’s top own brands include Ja! Naturlich for organic products, Clever for budget prices and Wegenstein for award-winning Austrian wines. 

FOR MEMBERS: Tips for how to make friends in Austria from those who have done it

MPreis

MPreis has 257 stores and is the main supermarket in Tyrol. The independent chain works with 250 regional suppliers and is a proud stockist of Tyrolean meat, cheese and vegetables, as well hundreds of organic products.

The quality of food products in MPreis is high and the stores are pleasant to visit, but the prices can be higher than other stores and the international food section is often limited. However, for regional produce from the Alps, it’s a top choice.

Like many other supermarkets in Austria, MPreis stores have an in-store bakery, a cafe and a meat counter.

Loyalty card: For every €5 spent, shoppers get one MPreis loyalty card point. After ten points have been collected you can purchase a product at a special price, such as Snowtrack snowshoes for €100 instead of €200.

Own brands: The Jeden Tag range is very affordable, the Therese Mölk bakery delivers high-quality bread and baked goods, and the Nature Fair brand ensures customers know where their meat is coming from with a focus on animal welfare. 

Hofer

Ask any Austrian or international resident where to find cheap food in Austria and they will probably say Hofer.

Hofer is essentially Aldi but with a different name for the Austrian market and it sells cheaper, lesser known brands that Aldi is famous for, as well as some fresh Austrian produce. 

Hofer doesn’t have the same perks as other supermarkets like a cafe or a specialised butchers’ counter, but it does have an in-store bakery. And when it comes to saving money on groceries, it is definitely the place to go.

Pro tip – be prepared to pack your bags quickly in Hofer. The check-out assistants don’t mess around. 

Loyalty card: Hofer doesn’t have a loyalty card system but does offer weekly promotional deals that vary from store to store.

Own brands: Backbox is the name of Hofer’s in-store bakery and Austrian meat is sold with the 100% aus Österreich label. Milfina is another Hofer brand that offers a range of affordable milk products.

Unimarkt

Unimarkt is a franchised cooperative of supermarkets. There are just 129 Unimarkt stores in Austria, with shops mostly found in Upper Austria, Styria, Salzburg and Lower Austria.

Earlier this year, Unimarkt was bought by entrepreneur Andreas Haider who plans to raise the profile of the brand and go up against Spar and Billa to expand the number of Unimarkt stores across the country.

READ MORE: What will happen to Austria’s property market in 2022?

For customers, Unimarkt represents an alternative to spending money at the big supermarket chains and can also help people to reduce their grocery bills with the low-cost Jeden Tag range (also available in MPreis).

Loyalty card: The loyalty card is known as PAYBACK and customers receive points every time they shop at Unimarkt or partner stores, such as DM, Burger King and Nordsee.

Own brands: Jeden Tag for low-cost shopping, Alnatura for organic food and UNIpur for family-friendly Austrian products.

Nah & Frisch

Nah & Frisch (which translates to near and fresh) is part of the Unimarkt family and has a strong focus on regional and organic products. It was founded in 1983 and there are 390 stores in Austria.

The website features recipes for products sold in Nah & Frisch stores and customers can even collect loyalty points to save up to 40 per cent on future purchases.

Recently opened Nah & Frisch stores include Haitzendorf in Lower Austria and Niederwölz in Styria.

Loyalty card: No loyalty card but there are special offers every week.

Own brands: Nah & Frisch sells products aus’m Dorf, which means products from the village or the surrounding region.

Where to find international food stores

While some of the larger supermarkets in Austria stock a range of international food, it can be harder to find in the smaller stores. Especially if searching for products from countries further afield, like the UK and the USA.

Instead, it can be useful to visit a specialist international shop to find comfort food and specific international products. Or order online if there is not a specialist shop in your area.

Find out more with The Local’s guide to finding international food in Austria.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is hitting the headlines as the Austrian Federal Government plans a reform of the scheme. Here's how it works now, why it is necessary and how it will change in the future.

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child-Pass) was launched in Austria in 1974 to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies.

It grants pregnant women free access to essential examinations and consultations, and serves as a record of healthcare.

But big changes are on the cards for the pass as a digitization reform is planned for the coming years, while disputes continue about the cost of the scheme.

Here’s what you need to know about how the Mutter-Kind-Pass works, why it’s necessary and how it will change. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules about turning on the heating in the workplace in Austria?

What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document to provide and track healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

It is issued to a woman when a pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and contains records of medical examinations during pregnancy. As well as health check-ups for the child up to five years of age.

The Mutter-Kind-Pass exists to ensure pregnant women and children get the necessary medical care they need.

For example, women in Austria are entitled to five medical check-ups throughout their pregnancy including blood tests, internal examinations, ultrasound scans and consultations with a midwife.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Who can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass and how much does it cost?

Any pregnant woman living in Austria can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass (and subsequent health examinations) for free.

However, all examinations must take place with a doctor that is registered with a health insurance company in Austria.

Women without health insurance need a confirmation of entitlement from the Austrian health insurance fund that is responsible for the area where they live.

This is a required step before any examinations can take place free of charge.

Why is the pass necessary?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass and its mandatory examinations are primarily used to detect any illnesses or possible complications early. 

The expected date of delivery is also entered into the Mutter-Kind-Pass, so the document is needed to receive maternity pay in Austria.

Additionally, proof of examinations are required to receive the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). This means the pass should be taken to every maternity-related appointment, as recommended by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.

How is the Mutter-Kind-Pass being reformed?

On Wednesday 16th November, Minister for Women and Family Affairs Susanne Raab (ÖVP) and Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) announced a reform of the Mutter-Kind-Pass.

The most notable change will be a transition from the paper booklet to a digital app in 2024, as well as new services and a name change to the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child-Pass).

Raab said: “In addition to the services in the area of ​​health care, we will introduce parent advice, which should be a compass for the new phase of life for new parents.”

The new services will include counselling, an extra consultation with a midwife, an additional ultrasound, hearing screenings for newborns, nutritional and health advice, and multilingual information in digital form.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In the future, parents-to-be and new parents will also be offered parenting advice when they have their first child, for example on the compatibility of employment and childcare, on the division of parental leave or on the effects of part-time work on pensions.

“The mother-child pass has been an essential part of maternal and child health in Austria for decades. Now we have managed together to further develop this important instrument in a contemporary form”, said Rauch.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

The implementation of the parent-child passport is a comprehensive, multi-year project and will begin with digitisation from next year.

The annual budget for the Mutter-Kind-Pass is currently €62 million and an additional €10 million from EU funds has been allocated to cover the cost of the reforms. 

However, there have been debates in recent months about the general cost of the pass. 

As a result there are ongoing negotiations between insurance companies and the Medical Association about the reimbursement of fees for providing healthcare and examinations.

READ ALSO: ‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

Der Standard reports that the Medical Association is threatening to discontinue the Mutter-Kind-Pass at the end of the year if an agreement on doctors fees cannot be reached. If that were to happen, expectant mothers would have to pay for examinations.

Currently, doctors receive €18.02 per examination and the Association is calling for an 80 percent increase.

SHOW COMMENTS