The average Australian household spends roughly 12% of their income on groceries and most goes into the coffers of supermarkets. Coles and Woolworths dominate, accounting for 55%-60% of what we spend on groceries (compared with the UK, where the four largest retailers between them have just 65% of the market). Yet a controversial inquiry into grocery prices last year by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) concluded Australia’s supermarket industry is “workably competitive”, and that supermarkets have little power to control grocery price increases.
To get our own snapshot of what consumers are paying across the country, CHOICE wrote a shopping list, grabbed our green bags and hit the supermarket aisles. Two years on from our last survey (CHOICE, July 2007), we found:
- Grocery prices have increased and Aldi is still cheapest.
- Where you live and the intensity of retail competition in your area has a major impact on what you pay at your local supermarket.
- There’s almost no difference in the average price of our basket of groceries at Coles and Woolworths, even when specials are included.
Please note: this information was current as of November 2009 but is still a useful guide today.
What you can do
Join our fight for a fairer deal at the checkout.
- Write to your supermarket asking them to help you make smarter grocery choices by publishing more store-based prices on its website. Use our letter.
- Look critically at specials and multi-buy offers – are they really saving you money? Use unit pricing to get the best deal.
- Give your local greengrocers, bakers, butchers and delis a go. Tell us about your experience by leaving a comment on our blog.
How we survey
Supermarkets and locations
We sent undercover shoppers into 145 supermarkets in 24 cities across Australia. The chains surveyed are Aldi, Coles, Foodworks, IGA and Woolworths/Safeway. We survey supermarkets in clusters so that each store has local competition. The majority of supermarkets surveyed remained consistent with our 2007 study.
Grocery basket items
We collected price data on 35 different products. All Aldi and non-Aldi products are matched as closely as possible. Sixteen of the items in the CHOICE basket were kept the same as in our 2007 basket for comparison. Most items in the survey are familiar quality brands, but for bread, bacon, butter, milk and sour cream we price the cheapest products we can find, usually generic.
Fresh food staples
For the first time we included bananas, chicken breasts and tomatoes in this 2009 supermarket survey.