Why Amsterdam Expats Hate Albert Heijn

Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands and very much dominates the grocery business in Amsterdam. While most Dutch people happily do their groceries at AH, which is considered the upscale food source in the Netherlands, many expats develop a deep hate of their omnipresent stores.

So when I recently discovered the “I hate Albert Heijn” blog I thought I should share it with you. It might sound crazy that – as the blog states – stores are filthy, day-to-day items are frequently out of stock or that AH forces you to buy their own label and keeps phasing out your trusted brands. Unfortunately it’s true and I have even seen the pigeons in the store as depicted last week’s post.

i hate albert heijn blog

20 thoughts on “Why Amsterdam Expats Hate Albert Heijn”

  1. This problem of low quality AH shops is only true for the bigger cities.

    All the filthy AH’s I have seen are in Amsterdam. In Groningen they are a lot better!

  2. Hi CV,

    I bet it’s much less of a problem outside the big cities. But it’s not only filth, but also empty shelves and unfriendly personnel. And I have seen it personally in smaller outlets outside of the center. The AH on Beethovenstraat at some point was literally empty.

    I hope they’ll improve but I’m not holding my breath…

    –dutchgrub

  3. That’s a good question, Andre! The answer is somewhat long as I end up getting groceries at different stores.

    For starters, there are three small Turkish stores close to where I live. One has decent fruit and vegetables. One has very good chicken and olives. And the third is well stocked in Italian coffee and olive oil.

    I still go to Albert Heijn and also Dirk. Luckily they have just extended opening hours to 10pm on weekdays and even are open on Sunday. Dirk tends to be cheaper but does not stock all the A brands.

    Finally I go to various bakeries, butcher shops, organic stores and all, and make trips to Noordermarkt, Haarlemmerstraat, Feduzzi or other places as needed.

    Quite time consuming… and obviously all by bike or tram! But, hey, it’s worth it if you love food like I do!

    –dutchgrub

  4. Thanks for the answer!

    I am also starting to get that those small turkish shops can be a great resource. Funny isn’t it? You needed foreigners to answer the need for a closer contact with the seller and an interesting product selection.
    Thankfully in Italy it is still plenty of gastronomie and fruttivendoli (fruit and veggies stores)… And it goes without saying that a supermarket like AH would go bankruptcy after one month.

    Your blog is great in that it made me find some pleasure in eating out in the country of broodje kroketten.
    But now comes my one-million-dollar question: best restaurant in Amsterdam for 20 euros?

  5. Hi Andre,

    fruttivendoli are not only a great thing to have but certainly also one of the funnest words I ever heard!

    I’ve actually been thinking about posting a list of ‘best affordable restaurants’ in Amsterdam. Not sure if € 20 is achievable if you want quality food. For a little more I like Zus en Zus on Overtoom and a few of the better eetcafes like De Reiger in the Jordaan or Vooges on Utrechtsestraat.

    Do you have any favorites?

    –dutchgrub

  6. Well then we also have wonderful pescivendoli!

    My 20-euros question originated from the need of having a decent dinner when friends come over to visit me, and don’t want to spend too much.
    But i’m realising that, as you say, it is very hard to get good food in amsterdam for that price. It is the same in Milan though, but at least when you want to go cheap you can enter (almost) any pizzeria and be happy with some fifteen euros!

    Now that I live here I am actually enjoying eetcafes, some of them really provide acceptable stuff. In the jordaan for sure, but there’s also something in lovely de pijp.
    Unfortunately I actually live in delft, but this means that finding a good spot in amsterdam (where I try to spend most of my free time) is even more important!

  7. Don’t forget that half the AH stores are franchisers (especially in A’dam). It does make sense that those differ in a bad way from the real AH shops.

  8. All the Albert heijn brand food products have some sort of obscure preservative and even the “biological” ham has tons of nitrites and sugar in it, even a can on chickpeas needs a preservative or emulgator… while other brands just use salt as preservative…??
    A simple to go sandwich has a immense list of ingredients… And then it doesn’t even taste good!!

  9. That’s funny (or actually, it isn’t)… I have never ever visited an AH in Amsterdam, but dozens of different ones in many other places all over The Netherlands. I cannot remember noticing dirty shops or unfriendly staff in any of those locations. I guess it’s typical for the Amsterdam shops, I don’t know.

  10. Jurgen, what is typical is for foreigners (especially Italian) to constantly complain about food in the Netherlands… and this includes AH 😉

  11. I’ve been literally all over the Europe but the situation with the supermarkets in the Netherlands and especially Amsterdam is by far the worst I’ve ever seen. Albert Heijn holds at least 50% of the market share and the consequences of this monopoly can be seen everywhere. The choice and the quality of the stock in Albert Heijn stores is far below acceptable level. There is basically no competition! It is incredible that the Dutch and their consumer protection association tolerate this! This is simply outrageous! There has to be some kind of deal that prevents the entrance of the good foreign supermarket chains!

  12. I have just moved here fro Canada.what the he’ll is wrong with Dutch that they allow such crappy grocery stores full of pr prepared chemica
    Infused fat foods?where can you buy proper food.like duck./turkey /pork roast/?large sheet of Phyllo?real tomato paste,not the sugar filled crap they sell.I want to make quiche.can you buy pie crust,uncooked.I hate pre chopped chemical infused crap.there is no variety.groceries are expensive.is there a super centre type place?with good prices?there is no competition in any thing,they also have overpriced crap electronics,such as kettles ,frying pans..etc..dollar shop crap quality.why do Dutch allow themselves to be so controlled by a few crap cartels.?If you know of any real grocery stores or better super centre type supermarkets in Amsterdam area,I would really appreciate it..oh alo ham?where can I buy a ham to bake?Not slices.all they eat is pre cut salad and toasties!what the hell!

  13. Agreed on hating Albert Heijn. So let’s move on and stop shopping there. I am also Canadian and somewhat bummed about the limited selection in Dutch supermarkets. However, the number and proximity of small, local groceries (Turkish, North African, Italian) and the number of fresh food markets is far greater than in Canada. We we can change our habits a bit, and frequent those outlets. If you don’t know where to start, try the Albert Cuyp market and the small streets in the vicinity. You’ll find good prices and be well served by the local merchants. I buy my staples at Dirk and just get on with it. And, voila, not all Canadians use the word crap in every sentence.

  14. Coming from Oz I had the same problem with the meat. However, I have found a little marche just outside of Amsterdam that is worth the 10-15mins trip. It’s a farmer’s market with chees shop & butcher. There you can order what your heart desires and they will dress it for you. They also supply most of the good steak houses in Amsterdam. http://www.lindenhoff.nl Try them. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

  15. Just come across this and had to comment! I’ve been in Holland for 12 years – in The Hague – and whilst Holland has some amazing benefits, Albert Heijn certainly isn’t one of them. They are so dirty, the smell alone that hits you as you walk in is enough to put you off. So ok, I vote with my feet whenever possible and shop elsewhere. But what I just simply don’t understand is why the Dutch put up with it? As a nation, they are well know for their spirit to travel and explore – they must see the better quality and standards available in other countries, and yet they come back to this. I’ve had Dutch people at work passing comment about how GOOD AH is. (However, this person also told me that Dutch cuisine is one of the best in the world….). In an up market shopping area in Den Haag, in the AH, a mouse run out from under the fruit and veg stands and ran over my foot. I found the manager and mentioned this, and he just shrugged his shoulders – and I’m not making this up. I was horrified. As a norm, they sell out of date goods, vegetables are often rotten. I just don’t understand why the Dutch either think this is ok, or put up with it.

  16. Hi

    I am moving to amsterdam on Saturday and one of the things I worry about is grocery shopping. I live in east london so feel blessed with the variety of food on offer here. I was wondering if you could give me the price of things like honey, spices like ginger and garlic or fresh herbs? Will it be most expensive over there?

    Thanks

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