The Whitehat Cookbook says it’s disappointed in the Federal Government’s report into grocery pricing and business practices. They make the following comments:
There is little point comparing prices between competing supermarkets. The real issue is the price hike over other outlets. Meat prices at supermarkets are consistently higher than at regular markets such as the Victoria Market or Preston Market – often by a factor of 50% to 100%.
The same applies for many fruit and vegetables. I can buy canned tomatoes and tomato pasta sauces from my local drygoods store in the city, then at a nearby large supermarket see the identical products at exactly double the price. I can buy pulses, beans and nuts from the bulk bins in my local Middle Eastern store or pay between 5 and 10 times the amount for the packaged item at a major supermarket.
Comparing supermarket prices provides little or no help to the consumer. The public would be much better served by comparisons of supermarket prices with non-supermarket prices. Mandatory unit pricing on the shelves may be useful for comparing competing products (although the money would possibly be better spent on maths education so people can do that naturally) but a more useful label would also compare the unit price with the government audited unit price if purchased from a non-supermarket source.
- Limitation of choice
In the past couple of years, many lines seem to have disappeared from supermarket shelves. Where it might have been common to see, say, 6 or 7 types of chutney on the shelves you may now have a choice of 2 or 3 plus the ‘home brand’. You can check the credentials of individual manufacturers but home brands which can easily change their anonymous outsourced manufacturer are more difficult keep track of. In the meantime smaller manufacturers seeking access to the mass market may end up by paying for shelf space in a supermarket.
- Trading practices
It would appear that in shopping malls certain traders near supermarkets who would normally sell bread or milk are prevented from doing so. Mother is forced to take her children into the supermarket (with the bread and milk probably placed towards the rear) then queue with the kids at the checkout where the sweets are placed at child level.
Many products stocked by supermarkets use excessive and environmentally unfriendly packaging. The supermarket duopoly with their buying power are capable of specifying in which form they will accept many of their products. Ethical and sustainable packaging does not seem to feature high on their priorities.
While I am sure the advertising campaigns of supermarkets are legal, they must surely be verging on the misleading when it comes to fresh food. You can go to your local market or fishmonger and look the fish in the eye to see how fresh it is, look the fishmonger in the eye to see how fresh he is – “No, Mr Fishmonger I am not free on Thursday night. Just tell me where and when that fish was caught” – and he usually can.
Go to a supermarket who have major advertising about supplying fresh food and you are likely to be confronted with rows of signs stating “thawed for your convenience”. If you go to Little Saigon in Footscray you will often be buying greens that have been picked at 3am on the same day. If you go to a supermarket with major advertising for fresh food and you are unlikely to find anyone on the floor who can tell you when the vegetables were picked and how long they have been in cold storage.
Go to your local market and you will often be buying fruit or vegetables that have to be sold within a day or two because they have been grown for flavour and nutrition. Go to a supermarket with major advertising about fresh food people and there is a strong chance that many of the lines have been chosen on shelf life so that they can stay in the shop for longer. We could go on, but as we said before, we are sure the advertising must be legal. Whether it is fair on the suburban mum trying to do the right things by her kids is another question. “
We agree with White Hat it will be interesting to see whether any of the above issues are addressed.