S&R Philippines – American Brands without American Taste?

S&R Philippines is like COSTCO in Japan. The two companies are linked. The buildings are the same, the internal layout is the same, and the products are similar. Well, alike in the name perhaps but not in taste.

I’m not sure if the US ships a different tasting product to the Philippines or if the US manufacturers ship substandard products to the Philippines. If the product does not meet the US taste standards, it’s on a ship for the Philippines. I’m unsure, but when I eat the food products here in the Philippines made in America, it’s the first thing that enters my mind.

If I order food from America, it tastes as it should. I share this food with Filipinos, and they love it. This taste testing leads me to believe that the food shipped is just subpar, and something went wrong in the making of the food. A lot more research will need to go into this thought.

S&R Arrival

I visited the S&R in Pampanga twice within ten days.

The parking lot is enormous, but there always seems to be a place to park up front. The same parking space has been available both times I’ve been there. That’s almost unbelievable because so many people visit the store daily.

There are no defined crossing areas, so everyone crosses the street wherever they want. Different than many other countries that want to keep customers safe. 

Covid measures are in place at the store. Facemask, face shield, and ID are required to enter. Social distancing when in line to enter the store and a security guard is taking patrons temperatures. The guard is also checking any bag brought into the store for guns or other items banned.

Inside the Store

When entering the store, ATMs are on the right, which means you can take your money out at the store and not need a special stop elsewhere. Once you’re on the Skyway, it’s challenging to get off, find an ATM, and get back on, so this is a fantastic thing. 

However, both ATMs were out of service on my second visit. I was glad I stopped at Mercury Drug at my starting location to withdraw money before arriving at S&R. I still didn’t need to leave and return to the Skyway, so that was good.

On the left, you collect a large cart and start shopping. These carts are the same cart you find in Sams Club or COSTCO. They are huge and hold a lot of products. They are to “help” you buy more and work as intended. The company has paid several focus groups to ensure the carts do.


The shopping experience is the same as Sams Club or COSTCO. A customer travels up and down vast grocery aisles of products and picks what they need or desire. I usually fall into the desired category. 

A customer is shopping in a warehouse that has airconditioning or aircon as they call it in Asia. It’s a comfortable experience, and most people are excited to buy in bulk. 

Customer Service

On my first visit, I found a lack of customer service, and the managers stood in the middle of the checkout floor and talked. The store shelves were half empty, and I couldn’t find an employee to ask questions.

My second visit was different, and employees were in certain places to help customers.

The shelves were full, and the store was inviting. Perhaps the company watched my short videos on YouTube. It was a 180-degree change.

At checkout, the manager was engaging and was quickly fulfilling employee and customer requests. I was impressed with my second visit and felt like the company went above usual customer service.

There was even an employee stationed at the cakes to answer questions.

American Brand

Between my two visits, I have bought several products, but only a tiny amount of them taste like American products even though the product is labeled made in America.

Let’s go over a few of them.

Cake – I bought a carrot cake, and the taste was good. It’s wasn’t the full-sugar experience of an American Carrot cake, but the aftertaste was carrot flavor, so it was close enough.  

Pickles – The Vlasic pickles were American tasting. I wish they had a wider variety besides whole pickles, but the great taste was there.

Chili – Hormel Chili is in a can and the same in America. This chili was a great find because I’ve not had any in years. I bought it with and without beans, and it tasted great.

Chips – The most significant issue so far is with chips. I have purchased several types, and none of them taste like American. I know chips also taste different in Japan, but it’s still a great taste. In the Philippines, the chips are uneatable for my American pallet. I threw most of them away.

I think I’ll make a separate chips article.

Candy – The candy is touch and go. The M&M peanuts purchased in a large container don’t taste like M&M but are worth eating. However, if you buy the sizeable mixed candy bags with regular M&Ms; in them, it’s an American taste.

Muffins – The muffins are incredible and taste American. I haven’t found American-tasting butter to put on top, but I’ll find some eventually.

Crackers – Regular crackers are from the Philippines, but there is a couple of choices from Cheez-it. The white cheddar has the American taste, but the Cheez-it Snap’d box does not taste American. 

Sausage – Sausage in Japan is nothing more than a hotdog, so a COSTCO visit fixes that issue. Sausage is not a type of food made and enjoyed in the Philippines, but S&R has various sausages from different countries. The American sausage tastes American.

Hashbrowns – The Hashbrowns taste American, and there are several kinds.

Cheese – I found sharp cheddar cheese, which is my favorite. Melt it in chili, and it’s the best. The cheese tastes like American and is a special treat because I can’t find it in Japan.

Ham – The ham is sliced and packaged in a long container. It tastes like ham from America and is excellent with hashbrowns. 

Peanuts – Planters dry roasted peanuts are a pass. The peanuts taste horrible and nothing like American.

Check Out

Both times I visited the store, there were available checkout lines. Perhaps it has to do with Covid, but I’m usually waiting a half hour or more in Japan to check out. 

My first visit to the store check-out took forever as I watched the managers stand around and talk. The second visit had hands-on managers, and the checkout moved fast. I was rolling the cart out of the store in 15 minutes.

Food Line

Like COSTCO, there are hot foods and cold drinks customers can buy and take with them or eat at the store. Here is where the real waiting comes in. If you want anything on the menu except drinks, you are going to wait an hour. 

There is no line, but the production is so slow that it’s almost going backward. One slice of pizza, and you’re waiting an hour. The pizza has little taste, and none of the food tastes American. Not even the cheeseburger. It’s disappointing, but it’s the same in Japan, except COSTCO serves hotdogs and pizza.

Exit the Building

Just like Sams Club and COSTCO, customers must show a receipt when exiting with their Purchase purchases. A security guard is located outside the door if any customer thought the shopping experience was a free one.

While the parking lot is large, there are no customer entry points to it. Customers need to take their carts around where cars enter the parking lot. This situation is not safe nor convenient for any customer.


S&R sells quality products, but if you expect all American-made products to taste American, you’ll be disappointed. I’m sure the people of the Philippines don’t know the difference, but for some Americans who shop, the difference in taste will, in some cases, make you sick.

Stay away from the potato chips!

Please read about my Philippines hospital stay here.

Have you been to an S&R store in the Philippines? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Do you have questions about S&R in the Philippines? Please post your questions below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

10 thoughts on “S&R Philippines – American Brands without American Taste?”

  1. Thank you for your review-S&R Philippines – American Brands without American Taste? Customer service plays a huge role in providing a wonderful experience. Once you are familiar with a product you buy again because you are looking for the same product. Could improper storage affect the quality of the products.

    • Thank you! I’m unsure why some products taste so bad. Even the Filipinos complain. I think it’s because they are inferior products shipped from America h and not what the people here want.

  2. Hi, It’s good to know what we’ll encounter even before we travel. I feel excited about going to the Philippines. But I am also a little nervous. Thank you very much for giving us this detailed report about S&R in Pampanga. I didn’t know that US food tasted different over there. And I’ll avoid picking anything on the food line menu except for drinks. We usually don’t have an our to wait for food.

    • Thank you Ann! I also haven’t found a pizza that has a good taste. I’ll collect more data and write a pizza article.

  3. This is actually really interesting!  My girlfriend is from the philippines, I’m from the usa, and we both want to have a honeymoon in Japan!  This is like a combination of all three of those hahah!  I would love to shop here, though, and see all the different kinds of foods they have, because I shop at costco a lot!

    • I met and married my Filipina wife in Japan! We usually live there and hope to return in just a few months. Costco is a fantastic place to shop in Japan, but you’ll be surprised by some foods’ taste. 

  4. Hi Michael,

    First of all, let me thank you for choosing the Philippines as one of your travel destinations.

    And Pampanga, it is my hometown!

    I like the way you touched S&R Pampanga. They are honest and constructive observations. And the good of it, I am one of the beneficiaries of the improvements they will make.

    I remember my first travel there, I was excited that I picked up several products without really inspecting, trusting they are serving the best. To my dismay, a lot of products bought were expired and others which were not expired, particularly the nuts ( mixed nuts), were rancid.

    I personally don’t like heavy crowd when I am purchasing and as you discussed S&R to be always crowded, I seldom go there, my husband does and he particularly likes pistachio nuts but his work assignment is in Laguna so he shops more frequently at their branch in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

    With regards the taste, for me it depends on whose customer do they prioritize to serve. And that is dictated with their customer traffic . 

    I would say also that there is a huge difference between American taste preference and Filipino taste preference. The threshold of Filipino for more salt and seasonings is there. And the type of ingredients dictates the price. Probably the marketing people already had a survey on what is more moving with the traffic.

    As for the service, that already depends on the implementation of the top management or admin department. Training may be there and the management you have just shown may have received it. Implementation is their choice. Proper admin monitoring may compel the expected service.

    Please explore more places and communities in the Philippines. I have personally seen and heard other foreigners testify of finding good ones. 

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Hope you can find some of your own taste! Enjoy your travels!

    • Wow! Good to hear from you. Pampanga is one of my favorite places in the Philippines. I was just in the hospital there, and the doctors saved my life. The article is https://travelandjapan.com/phi

      The issue I have is that American food is promoted as American food. It’s made in America but not American taste. You’re correct, and the cost is probably involved in this decision, but I can’t see a few spices changing the cost that much.

      When I ship food from America and share it with my Filipino friends, they go crazy over the taste. I don’t believe that taste is the major factor in food choice for the company. Making the most money while offering the substandard product is perhaps.

      I’m sure that on most days they have exceptional customer service. On my second trip, I was pleased with the store staff. 

      I’m glad I received feedback from someone who has been to the store.

  5. Thank you for sharing about S&R with us. I know what you mean about the quality of the product. I am from Thailand and we have a store similar to costo there too but all the American products just like you said did not tast as good as in America. I guess it is just the quality of the product line. If you have never been to the U.S, you can’t tell the different but You and I can. Oh well! 

    • I buy products from America and share them with my Filipino friends. They go wild for the taste of truly American food. The issue is the quality for sure.


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