El Rey is one of three large supermarkets on the Pan-American highway. It’s in a very nice shopping area that also includes a number of other upscale stores. We usually go to El Rey because it is on our side of the highway and there is plenty of parking, so it is easy to get in and out.
You learn what is in which stores and plan your shopping trips accordingly. If you want “health food” type things, your best bet is Super Baru which is a slightly smaller supermarket across the street. They tend to have the best variety of interesting imported things of all types. You can’t find everything you would expect in the US but more and more things seem to be coming available, I imagine because of the large expat population up the road who come down to David to shop.
Today we were making a quick run through El Rey and landed in Aisle 7 where Joel was studying the cereal selection, and some chia seeds on the other side of the aisle caught my eye. Since when were these available here?? (only place so far I’ve seen them is Pricesmart) Then I noticed sesame seeds, which before I only found at Baru. Then, organic coconut, quinoa products, gluten free things… where did all this stuff come from?!
Then I noticed the greatly expanded selection of soy milks that now includes more flavors, a whole lot of almond milks, some rice milk, and quite a few other products I haven’t even seen in the US! Hazelnut? Oat?
Down the aisle was a whole display of Red Mill products. They have these at Baru but El Rey now has twice the selection! (excuse the blurry photo. I was using my cell phone and trying not to look obvious to the employee stocking shelves nearby).
I also saw coconut oil! A while back our veggie market, our usual source, wasn’t able to get coconut oil and I ran all over town looking. I finally found it in Romero in San Mateo next to the old McDonald’s. But, it was imported, expensive, and not nearly as aromatic and flavorful as the home made stuff from the veggie market. But, if the veggie market guy has a problem in the future now I have another source right down the street. And, I see agave and other products, and maple syrup! (I can’t see the price but if you just must have some, here you go). Many of the prices looked high to me but I live in Panama. I just had a rude awakening, as usual, when I went shopping in the US so in the big picture maybe these prices aren’t too bad for imported things.
I have heard good things about a health food store in Boquete called Organica, but since I’m not up there much I only vaguely remember it from a visit a long time ago. Many Boquete folks come down here to shop though and El Rey is convenient. I always see other gringos there, so I imagine these new products are here for the expat shoppers. The Panamanians I know tend to eat their traditional dishes but being generally very health conscious, maybe they will be interested in trying some of these things too.
We do not suffer here, and we do not lack for things we need every day. Sometimes we don’t lack for things we never even knew we needed 😀 If you are looking for health food store types of products be sure to check out Aisle 7 in El Rey. I’m sure there are more things there than I noticed and/or photographed and you might be happy with what you find.