Archive | 3:39 pm

I’m fed up! (what else is new)

29 Nov

I have a tendency towards outrage. I can’t stand injustice, and reading about it makes me furious. I sometimes wish that information could just wash over and not impact me so much, but I like to think that the fact I care makes a very small difference.

I’m sure P wishes I was a bit less indignant.

I participated in the Nestle Boycott for a few years before we got married, then his friends teamed up against me and purchased a catering-sized tin of Milo for his as an engagement party gift. I was losing the battle terribly over time, and I’m ashamed to admit that eventually I gave up.

Our current adventures in growing our own food  and eating organically were prompted by the film Food, Inc. I will admit to still harbouring a fast food addiction, but that film has really changed our lives.

And today, once again, I’d fed up. This time the object of my fury is the Australian supermarket duopoly, Coles and Woolworths.

I have noticed lately that some of the products I usually buy are no longer available. The most shocking to me was McCormick spices. Completely gone, from both Coles and Woollies. They lost the shelf-space bidding war to Masterfoods, and now they’ve been replaced by premium home label ranges, Woolworths Select and Coles brand. The same thing has happened to Greenseas Tuna, and the pressure is on all the brands unless they are #1 in their category. John Birmingham was ranting in the Herald this morning that his favourite brand of tomatoes, La Gina has befallen the same fate.

Earlier this month, Heinz hit out at the big two for their aggressive, anti-competitive behaviour. When a big international name like Heinz is crying poor, then that signals to me that there is a big power imbalance in the Australian food industry.

I have already made changes to the way I shop. I order all my fruit, vegetables, dairy and cleaning products from an independent, organic delivery company, Lettuce Deliver. To reduce costs though, I have been purchasing the majority of my general groceries from either Aldi or Woolworths. I particularly like the expanding Macro organic range at Woollies, which are probably half the price of the independant. I thought I was making a difference by buying them (despite the higher prices), and using my Everyday Rewards card, just so they could track my spending. Hopefully my small statistic was registering somewhere!

But I’m not sure I can continue this anymore. This continual push towards private label goods may be good for the consumers in the short term, but long-term it is going to mean less choice. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to imagine Coles and Woollies turning into mega-Aldis who stock mainly home labels, supplemented by a few big name brands like Coca Cola and Huggies. This is going to lead to an environment where the big supermarkets lead product development in this country, and where smaller producers cannot get new and innovative products off the ground. There will be no price signals from the branded products, and so we’ll just have to pay whatever price they decide to set for those products.  There won’t be anyone else to undercut (except the competitor’s home brand product), and I’m ready to bet it will be exactly the same.

Consumers will eventually suffer.

So what to do?

I have been hooked on the convenience of the big two. My local Woolworths is open until at least 11pm every night. I guess I’m going to have to be more organised, and try to shop within the opening hours of my local Franklins (soon to become IGA). The latest they stay open is 8pm, and they have no fresh produce! I think I’ll be expanding the list of products that I buy from Lettuce Deliver and further limiting our consumption of processed food. That’s really the only type of food that I struggle to find organic, and let’s face it – organic french onion dip is still french onion dip 😉

I think I also need to write to Woolworths and explain my behaviour. They need to know that their strategy is making customers walk. I’m sure I’m the type of consumer they want to keep too – frankly, I’m not cost conscious, I don’t chase specials, and I’m willing to pay a substantial premium for organic products.

What do you think? Are you feeling outraged too?