Sales, market share and customers on the rise at Woolies

Woolworths Limited has released its first half year sales results, with its food and liquor business experiencing a 4.7 percent rise on the previous year.

A statement issued by the company reported $30.7 billion in total group sales. Food and liquor sales for the first half were $20.5 billion, an incerase of 4.7 percent on last year.

CEO Grant O'Brien, said "Australian Food and Liquor performed well, growing by $0.9 billion, and continued to increase market share, customer numbers, basket size and items sold when compared to the same period last year. Effective promotional activities, leveraging our growing customer data capabilities, and the return to inflation in Produce have assisted this result."

In the supermarket division, comparable store sales for the half year increased by 2.4 percent, and for the second quarter 2.5 percent. They also served an average of 20.2 million customers per week, a jump of 4.6 percent.

Tjeerd Jegen, managing director Australian Supermarkets and Petrol said, "The result for the second quarter was pleasing with a particularly strong month in December. Sales across each of our Fresh departments exceeded expectations with the Produce, Seafood and Meat departments performing well and a great customer response to our ‘Xmas Fresh Fairs’.

"We have improved our performance in packaged goods but remain focused on building further momentum in this area to achieve the results we are targeting. The continuation of our ‘For Less For Families’ program as well as the launch of our ‘Cash For Christmas’ campaign have all been well received and millions of customers Australia wide have received the benefits of these and other initiatives."

Both Woolworths and its key competitor, Coles, have been focusing on affordability for consumers lately, with the latter recently expanding its Down Down range of discounted products.

Woolworths says the standard shelf price movement index for the half year was inflation of one percent, and whilst produce returned to inflation during the half, it went back into deflation in December.

Average prices experienced deflation of 2.8 percent for the half year.

Brad Banducci, director of Liquor said, "Our Liquor business continues to generate strong positive growth momentum with sales growth experienced across all three formats – Dan Murphy’s, Convenience (BWS and Woolworths Liquor) and Direct (Cellarmasters and Langton’s). Growth has been assisted by store openings and our continued investment in multi-option.Particularly pleasing was the growth in Dan Murphy’s Online, assisted by the national roll-out of click and collect across the entire Dan Murphy’s network – a first for a major national retailer."

Woolworths opened 17 Australian supermarkets in the half year, bringing the total to 887. It also opened 11 Dan Murphy's outlets, taking the total to 170.

Coles also released its sales figures earlier this week, and is experiencing steady growth in food and liquor. Comparable food and liquor sales grew 3.8 percent for the half. Read more on Coles' performance here.


Woolworths joins Taronga Zoo in seafood sustainability committment

Taronga Zoo will be helping Woolworths to achieve its goal of ensuring all wild-caught fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council by 2015.

The supermarket chain has also agreed to ensure its Select tuna range uses pole- and line-caught stocks by the end of this year, reducing the amount of bycatch including dolphins, sharks and juvenile fish.

Tuna company John West last year copped serious criticism for its use of "destructive" fishing methods, with Greenpeace launching a Reject John West campaign and protestors even congregating outside John West's Melbourne headquarters dressed in shark suits.

John West's website now states that "By 2015 John West will end sourcing tuna from fisheries using methods that current science shows to be unsustainable such as the use of FAD-associated purse seine caught tuna and will only sell tuna caught using environmentally responsible methods, currently defined to include pole and line and unassociated purse seine."

Taronga Zoo's partnership with Woolworths involves a multi-million dollar investment over three years, with Woolworths becoming the principal supporter of Taronga’s Great Southern Oceans precinct. Funds will also directly support a range of the Zoo’s marine protection programs.

Director of Taronga Zoo, Cameron Kerr said "The oceans need our help, and Taronga has long been an advocate for marine conservation. Our Sustainable Seafood campaign has been successful in educating our visitors to make informed choices. By joining with Woolworths, we can empower not just the Zoo visitors, but the 21 million shoppers that walk through Woolworths’ doors each week. I‘m proud of the aims of this important partnership and believe it will make a huge difference to protect marine wildlife."


Fifteenth quarter of growth for Coles

Wesfarmers Limited, owner of Coles, has released its second quarter retail sales figures, with the supermarket chain experiencing steady growth in food and liquor sales.

Coles, Bunnings and Kmart, in particular, have delivered a "solid performance", Wesfarmers said in a statement released eariler this week, with the retail businesses boasting a record number of shoppers in-store over the Christmas period – Coles alone made almost $1b in sales in the week leading up to Christmas.

Managing director at Wesfarmers, Richard Goyder, said "Coles’ comparable food and liquor sales growth of 3.8 percent for the half was reflective of the ongoing improvement in the quality, service and value of the customer offer. The December quarter represented the fifteenth consecutive quarter of growth in comparable sales and sales density."

Headline food and liquor sales for the second quarter of 2013 were $7.7 billion, up five percent on the corresponding period in 2012, while headline sales in the first half also increased by five percent, to $14.3 billion.

"Food and liquor price deflation moderated to 0.9 percent for the second quarter reflecting lower fresh produce deflation," the report reads.

It also states that Coles' continued invest in lower prices has driven volume growth ahead of sales growth. This comes after an announcement earlier this month that the supermarket giant would be expanding its Down Down range with the addition of more than 100 products.

Coles managing director, Ian McLeod said the company's commitment to improving quality, service and value has attracted more customers in-store and continues to benefit suppliers through increased volumes.

However after announcing the expansion of its Down Down range, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) slammed Coles for limiting its product range.

Criticism surrounded findings in a report released by Coles, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, which found that Coles' product range had dropped 11 percent from 2010 to mid-2012.

AFGC's chief, Gary Dawson said "These figures confirm what shoppers report anecdotally – that they often can’t find their favourite products on the shelves any more when they go to the major supermarkets.

"The latest aggressive campaign by Coles to promote their private label products is a sign that this trend will continue."

Coles responded quickly with its own statement, claiming that the AFGC "has selectively used data from a Deloitte report to pursue a tired political campaign against the major supermarkets."

Coles opened 10 new supermarkets and closed four stores during the second quarter, taking the total number of stores to 753. The total number of liquor stores and hotels sits at 895 after the company opened 20 liquor stores, closed five and opened one hotel.

The liquor market is an area of growth for Coles, who together with its key competitor Woolworths are said to be interested in the purchase of the Ultimo Wine Centre in Sydney, which has an annual turnover of more than $4m.


Good times continue for supermarket duopoly

Coles and Woolworths are expected to report their strongest quarterly sales growth for more than a year later this week.

According to AFR, analysts believe December's hot, dry weather helped drive demand for fruit, salad vegetables and alcohol, with solid volume growth in supermarket and liquor retailers.

Food price deflation has also eased, which, when delivering the CHEP AFGC Retail Index, AFGC's Gary Dawson said is consistent with the food manufacturing industry's expected modest growth for 2013.

Wesfarmers, which owns Coles, is due to release its second quarter sales on Wednesday this week, with Woolworths following suit on Thursday.

Analysts are predicting Woolworths' same store sales in Australian supermarket and liquor stores to have risen by between 2.5 and 3.5 percent in the December quarter, AFR reports. This is compared to 1.1 percent in the second quarter of 2012 and 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and would be the supermarket giants' strongest growth rate in five quarters.

Sales at Coles are expected to jump by at least four percent compared with 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and could be its strongest growth rate in four quarter.

Earlier this month news broke that Australia has the fastest falling food prices in the developed world, after previously having the reverse title – fastest rising food prices – from 2000 to 2009.

Local food costs dropped 2.7 percent in the 12 months to the end of September – the biggest food price decline in the recent past, thanks to fruit prices normalising following the Queensland floods in 2010/2011, the Victorian floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi in 2011, as well as the end of the drought and the strong Australian dollar.

Coles also made headlines recently by announcing the expansion of its Down Down range, with more than 100 products added.

The AFGC hit out at Coles, however, arguing that the supermarket brand is reducing the range on offer to consumers and focusing on its own private label products.


Supermarkets look to snap up Ultimo Wine Centre

The supermarket duopoly's expansion in the alcohol market is gaining traction it seems, with rumours Coles and Woolworths have both registered interest in the purchase of Ultimo Wine Centre.

According to AFR, "Coles has been looking for ways to accelerate liquor sales growth and returns while improving its store network, while Woolworths is keen to grow its direct, online and premium wine business, which received a boost from the $340m acquisition of Cellarmasters in 2011 and Langton's Fine Wine in 2009."

Ultimo Wine Centre has an annual turnover of more than $4m and is owned by Jon Osbeiston, who, according to The Shout, declined to comment on the supermarket chains' interest.

Its website reads, "The Ultimo Wine Centre has, since it’s inception in late 1994, been considered one of the leading retail wine stores in Sydney and Australia. With a second to none range of imported wines Ultimo sets the standard for other retailers."

Woolworths “supporting local” with new strategy

Woolworths has announced plans to support small and medium sized producers in Australia with its Local Food Sourcing Strategy.

Earlier this week Acting NSW Premier Andrew Stoner unveiled the first locally sourced products hitting shelves in late January as part of the strategy, including a range of jams and conserves from nine local producers in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

"It's great to see Woolworths committing to support more small and medium NSW businesses.  This is great news for consumers, great news for local businesses and great news for NSW," Stoner said.

Tjeerd Jegen, Woolworths managing director of Australian Supermarkets and Petrol said the supermarket giant will be working with local producer come to appropriate production and supply arrangements.

"We recognise that supplying 890 Woolies stores can be a daunting prospect for small and medium businesses, and may simply be beyond the reach of their production capacity.  Woolworths’ Local Sourcing Managers will work with these suppliers to design a plan that suits their business, whether that’s supplying three stores, or 300 stores," he said.

Woolworths will appoint local sourcing managers in each state, who will identify local products, host Local Sourcing Road Shows to communicate opportunities for suppliers and develop plans for those interested.

"Australians are justifiably proud of their local produce, so we are making it easier for local suppliers to work with our buyers, and we are investing in more direct local sourcing so that our customers can enjoy the unique products their community has to offer," said Jegen.

One of the newest local suppliers, Eric Robinson of the Port Macquarie Food Co. said, "This is a very exciting opportunity for a small business like us, and it's been a great experience – the process is really easy.

"We are passionate about supporting our community – that's why we source all of our ingredients from local growers.  With our products on the shelves of 43 Woolies stores, we will be able to share the flavours of our community with a much wider group of customers."

Other locally sourced products hitting shelves in late January are:

  • Hank's Jam from Brookvale in Sydney, NSW will be stocked in 278 stores
  • Blue M Jam form the Blue Mountains, NSW will be stocked in 32 stores
  • Hill & River Jam from the Hunter Valley, NSW will be stocked in 17 stores
  • Officers’ Mess Conserves from Daylesford, VIC will be stocked in 50 stores
  • Yarra Valley Gourmet from the Yarra Valley, VIC will be stocked in 76 stores
  • Country Cuisine Jam from Daylesford, VIC will be stocked in 30 stores
  • Rhu Bru Jam from Scottsdale, TAS will be stocked in three stores
  • Tasmanian Gourmet Kitchen from Longford, TAS will be stocked in three stores


Country of origin labelling for SA seafood

South Australian restaurants and takeaway shops will now disclose whether their seafood is local or imported, with new legislation coming into effect next month.

According to Adelaide Now, Independent senator Nick Xenophon and independent MLC John Darley teamed up to introduce state and federal legislation requiring fish retailers to clarify where their produce comes from.

George Mazarakos, who owns Soto's Fish Shop at Semaphore told Adelaide Now he'll happily comply. "I've always sold local fish here anyway except for butterfish so I'm happy to add the word 'imported' to my menu," he said.

As it stands, the country of origin of raw seafood sold anywhere in Australia but be outlined, but the same rules don't apply if it's cooked for immediate consumption. At present, only the Northern Territory has such rules for cooked seafood, with South Australia's legislation taking effect next month.

Ian Harrison, chief executive at Australian Made, says such legislation should be introduced nationwide.

"It would make good business sense for fast food outlets across the country to supply Australian produce and aggressively market it as such.

“We believe in helping consumers make informed choices, and the extension of country-of-origin labelling to cooked food where practical would be another step in the right direction.”

Country of Origin labelling has been a key issue in the food and beverage manufacturing industry of late, with a CHOICE survey conducted last year finding that 55 percent of Coles’ private label products and 38 percent  of Woolworths’ products were grown or manufactured locally, compared with 92 percent for market leader groceries.

Despite these statistics, consumers are keen to support the local food industry, with nearly half of all shoppers going out of their way to buy Australian-made produce, while more than one-third buy Australian wherever possible. There have even been calls from the industry for a dedicated “Australian made” aisle in supermarkets.


Coles slams AFGC for telling half the story on price cuts

After the expansion of its Down Down campaign, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) criticised Coles for limiting its product range, but the supermarket giant claims only half the story is being told.

Earlier this week Coles announced it was adding more than 100 private-label products to its Down Down range.

Soon after, the AFGC issued a statement slamming Coles for focusing on their own private-label products, and consequently limiting the range on offer to consumers.

The industry group cited research released by Coles and conducted by Deloitte Access Economics which claimed that Coles' product range dropped 11 percent from 62,000 products to 55,000 between mid-2010 and mid-2012.

Coles responded quickly with its own statement, claiming that the AFGC "has selectively used data from a Deloitte report to pursue a tired political campaign against the major supermarkets."

It adds, "Unfortunately, the AFGC have ignored the detailed Deloitte analysis about why and what has happened in Coles’ supermarkets and the Deloitte conclusion because it does not suit their story. The Deloitte report concludes: '…effective choice in the store is still high and consumers may be better off overall'".

Coles went on to add that branded products make up 75 percent of all products sold in its stores, and just as many private label products have been removed from shelves as branded products.

John Durkan, Coles merchandise director, said, "It is about time the AFGC became a more professional body that actually represents all of its members, many of whom have seen substantial sales gains from products sold at Coles that customers buy the most."

Click here to read more on this story.


Coles expands its ‘Down Down’ range

More than 100 products have been added to Coles' price-slashed 'Down Down' range, bringing the total number of products in this campaign to over 1,000. 

The latest price cuts, introduced this week, include eight percent on bread, 13 percent on juice, 27 percent on meat pies and 32 percent vegetable oil, says the Australian. Other discounted products include dairy spreads, cheeses, frozen foods, health and beauty products.

The mark-downs affect private label products only and were prompted by Coles' online research, which found that 65 percent of families are looking for increased savings on their household budget this year.

While the discounts are only guaranteed for six months, products added to the Down Down campaign in July 2012 will remain at the discounted price.

Earlier this week it was reported that Australia has the fastest falling food prices of the developed world, following a long stint as the country with the fastest rising prices from 2000 to 2009.

Price normalisation following natural disasters, the strong Australian dollar, increased competition between the supermarket giants and the growth of other players such as Aldi and Costco were all attributed to grocery price cuts.

Supermarket price cutting has been the bane of many food and beverage manufacturers' lives recently, with key figures including MP Bob Katter and celebrity chef Maggie Beer both slamming supermarket dominance and arguing their price wars threaten the livelihood of local producers.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has released a statement slamming supermarkets for their strong focus on private label and home-brand products, resulting in a reduced product range for consumers.

Research released by Coles, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics and based on its own data, found that its product range has dropped 11 percent from 62,000 products to 55,000 from mid-2010 to mid-2012.*

"These figures confirm what shoppers report anecdotally – that they often can’t find their favourite products on the shelves any more when they go to the major supermarkets," said AFGC's chief, Gary Dawson.

"The latest aggressive campaign by Coles to promote their private label products is a sign that this trend will continue."

Dawson called Coles' pricing cuts "a classic Trojan horse tactic", disguising consumers' loss of choice and supermarkets' efforts to obtain an even greater market share.

Coles' merchandise director, John Durkan, said suppliers can benefit from its Down Down range.

“Helping Australian families make ends meet is our top priority but we know that customers want to know that lower prices for them does not mean suppliers get squeezed. Coles has invested tens of millions of dollars in these price cuts which should benefit Australian suppliers as orders increase,” he said.

The words war between Coles and the AFGC continues, click here to read more.

*The Deloitte Access Economics also found that:

  • The average discount among Down Down products is eight percent
  • Coles' prices storewide have dropped by an average of 3.2 percent in the year to the end of September


Woolworths restricts baby formula sales

Reports that supermarket shelves are being stripped of baby formula, which is then sent to China, have caused Woolworths to restrict sales to four tins per transaction.

Baby formula health scares have been doing the rounds in China and consequently brands in Australia including Bellamy Organic, Karicare and Aptamil are experiencing shortages.

According to The Australian, Woolworths has today introduced a restriction of four tins of baby formula per transaction, to help ensure enough product for all customers.

Unlike Woolworths, Coles has decided not to limit supply, but to work with suppliers to increase available stock.

Manufacturer of Aptamil and Karicare, Nutricia, said it's working with retailers to help meet an increase in orders, and will also be increasing it's production capacity this year by more than half.


Oz has fastest falling food prices in developed world

After having the fastest rising food prices of the developed world from 2000 to 2009, Australia is experiencing a complete 180, now boasting serious falls in food prices.

According to the Daily Telegraph, local food costs dropped 2.7 percent in the 12 months to the end of September – the biggest food price decline in the recent past, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development spokesman, Lawrence Spee.

The recent drop in prices in thanks to fruit prices normalising following the Queensland floods in 2010/2011, the Victorian floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

However other factors include the end of the drought, which has increased supply, and the strong Australian dollar, which has limited the cost of food ingredients such as wheat.

Contrary to many consumers' belief that food prices are on the rise, a Deloitte report, commissioned by Coles, found that shoppers are saving some serious coin when buying groceries.

The report cites increased competition between Coles and Woolworths and market entry from players such as Costco and Aldi as playing a role in dropped prices, and said that across the entire supermarket sector the "overall saving in food could in fact be worth $1.8 billion or more over the 18-month period" to the end of June 2012.

What’s in store for food manufacturing in 2013?

2012 has been a tough year for food and beverage manufacturers. Will next year be much the same?

Only coming in as editor of Food magazine a few weeks ago (although, it feels like a lifetime ago now!) I'm not going to pretend that I fully understand the trials and tribulations that 2012 has thrown at you manufacturers – big and small.

But, I am getting my head around a few of the big issues. Correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of talk seems to be around that big scary phrase, 'Asian century'. Stories like this and this show that while there are a lot of opportunities for Australian manufacturers to take advantage of Asia's interest in our food industry, we're not exactly sure how best to take advantage of them and how much power or control we're willing to hand over. Consumers aren't 100 convinced either….

Another key issue is sustainability, and most of it seems to surround seafood at the moment. Whether it's naming and shaming those companies reluctant to embrace sustainable fishing methods or clarifying which species are threatened and which aren't, sustainability is sure to be another hot topic in 2013.

Let's not forget the supermarkets. The duopoly made headline countless times this year, with the dominance of private labels of particular interest to the industry, not to mention the price wars and their effect on our producers.

Love them or hate them, Coles and Woolies are here to stay, I just wonder if the consumer's concern for battling Aussie brands will continue to grow, and if/how the duopoly will respond?

Labelling, labelling, labelling. Manufacturers are under more and more pressure to be upfront and honest about EXACTLY what they are – are they organic? Better yet are they CERTIFIED organic? Are they Australian-made? And what does this even mean? Are the product's contents grown here? Is the product packaged here? Or is it made from 'local and imported ingredient?' – which can be hugely misleading for consumers. I think next year manufacturers' claims will be put under the microscope and labelling reforms will gain serious momentum.

Pressure is also on manufacturers to be upfront about how good their products are for consumers. Health is a growing concern for Australian consumers (as our waistlines are growing too) and industry bodies and governments are in the process of developing a labelling system which is easy to understand and which clearly defines the health and nutritional value of food and beverage products. It won't be traffic lights, but it could be stars.

Just last week proposals for new regulations were approved which would see stricter controls for on-pack health claims, including the need to provide scientific evidence to support claims as well as a requirement to meet specific eligibility criteria including nutrition criteria.

I know there are more, but these are the burning topics that I've read and written about the most in my brief few weeks in the editor's chair. But as I said in my introductory article, I'm all ears. Now's your chance to share your thoughts and tell all Food readers what you see in your crystal ball.

Merry Christmas to you all, and the Food team will be back (and ready for a big, eventful year) on 7 January, 2013.


Woolworths to present at AIP dinner

Woolworths will be shedding light on its packaging techniques and trends at an upcoming dinner hosted by the Australian Institute of Packaging.

Speaking on 27 February at Oatlands Golf Course Club House in Sydney, Woolworths Limited's environmental manager, Kane Hardingham will join Daniel Bone, global director consumer insights, Datamonitor, as presenters.

Hardingham will present a paper on Woolworths' packaging trends, looking at balancing efficiencies, costs and sustainability for retailers and suppliers.

In his work, Hardingham works with sustainable packaging specialists to implement processes to review packaging on own-brand products and to introduce packaging improvements.

Datamonitor's Daniel Bone will speak about the 10 new pack innovations from Packtrack, Datamonitor's packaging innovation platform.

Bone will explore and challenge the economic difficulties brands face and will provide detail on real opportunities these packaging innovations could provide.

To book your place email for a booking form or head to


Grape slip gripe for Woolworths

Woolworths is being sued by a 61 year old woman who slipped on a grape while in-store, allegedly suffering physical and psychological injuries which hinder her earning capacity.

Nola Joy Hollett was in the confectionery aisle of the Woolworths supermarket in South Australia's Port Lincoln in 2009 when she allegedly slipped on a grape.

According to ABC, Hollett alleges that Woolworths and its staff were negligent.

"[Woolworths] permitted the floor to become and/or remain in an unsafe or dangerous condition … and failed to have in place an adequate system of inspections and cleaning, which would have alerted it to the presence of the grape on the floor," court documents read.

Hollett claims she injured her shoulder, neck, leg and spine as well as suffering from psychological injuries, reducing her earning capacity.

Woolworths, on the other hand, is arguing that Hollett failed to "watch out properly" and that the fall was not serious enough to cause the injuries and losses she claims to be suffering from.

This story comes just a few months after reports grapes might have to be banned from supermarkets or sold in sealed bags to prevent such slip-ups.

Couriermail reported shoppers claim more than $100m a year in personal injury payouts after slipping in supermarket aisles.

While grapes are the key culprit, loose rice grains, lettuce leaves, snow peas, beans, malfunctioning trolleys and spilt milk are also deemed as hazardous.

The Hollett case is scheduled for a settlement conference in January.


Price wars and imports threaten to burst Veuve’s bubble

Australia's second favourite champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, is concerned its reputation will suffer thanks to big retailers' price wars and parallel imports.

The infamous price wars in Australia are a concern to Veuve Clicquot's president, Jean-Marc Lacave, but, according to SMH, he said the situation is worse in other markets.

"We see much more dramatic situations around the world than what we see in Australia, in other markets such as Europe, UK and France it is much more aggressive," he said.

With Christmas around the corner, Coles and Woolworths, which control most of Australia's liquor market through brands including Dan Murphy's and Liquorland, are expected to battle it out for the cheap champagne crown, with serious discounts already on offer.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label is currently on offer at Dan Murphy's for $55.70 per bottle or $66.66 from Liquorland Direct.

"We have seen [in] many examples around the world that it is not a few dollars that is going to dramatically improve sales so it's better for the value chain to keep the margin for the retailers," Lacave said. "And, for our brands, considering the quality, command a premium and the consumer will understand this as long as we maintain the quality."

Another issue for champagne producers is the availability of cheap drops on the grey market, where the product can be imported by individuals or businesses at a cheaper rate than that asked of official distributors.

Owned by Moet Hennessy, Veuve ranks second in Australian sales of French champagne, behind Moet, but is still enjoying double-digit sales growth rates.


Woolworths fast food court opposed by residents, Heart Foundation

Plans by supermarket giant Woolworths to develop a centre food court for fast food chains is facing opposition from local residents and the Heart Foundation.

Woolworths wants to develop a 121-seat food court in the new Woolworths complex in Western Australia’s Margaret River.

Woolworths said in a statement that the food court would be a “necessary” change to allow bakery products, hot food, and a fish and chips store in the centre.

But the residents are not happy about the potential development, with 350 submissions arguing against the proposal already received.

Some argue that the coastal town known for its wineries, fresh produce, high quality dairy and, which make it a prime tourist and retirement destination would be ruined by the fast food court.

The WA Heart Foundation has also offered its support to the submissions from residents opposing the Woolworths food court, saying the proposed location is too close to the local primary school.

“While fast food is unhealthy at any stage of life, young children are targeted by junk food marketing and should be educated about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” Swanson said.

The Heart Foundation WA has also issued a statement urging people from Western Australia to boycott the fast food plans by the supermarket giant.

Western Australia has the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in Australia, with almost 70 per cent of adults overweight or obese according to Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics obtained by WA Heart Foundation.

The Woolworths full proposal is expected to be considered by the Margaret River council before the start of 2013.

What do you think of the proposal? Do Woolworths have a responsibility to look after customer's health?

Peach growers to lose thousands from SPC Ardmona cuts

Australian peach growers say they were only informed of SPC Ardmona’s decision to cut its peach quota by almost 20 per cent after they had begun preparing for season.

The growers say the short notice will leave them out of pocket, with some individual businesses set to lose tens of thousands of dollars.

SPC Ardmona, Australia’s last remaining major Australian-owned fruit processor, says it genuinely believed it had informed all growers in advance, and will work to ensure communication methods improve in future.

The company cut its peach quota by 17 per cent due to “significant fall” in consumer demand.

It said the cut was necessary due as sales have decreased by 14 per cent, despite increased activity and promotion.

SPC Ardmona also pointed to the high Australian dollar as part of the reason for the cut to the quota, as well as the cheap imports flooding the market as a result of the supermarket price wars.

Furthermore, the high Australian dollar has impacted on export opportunities for the products, while increasing competing pressures from cheaper imports.

SPC Ardmona is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil which has announced expansion plans in its drinks business as previously reported in Australian Food News.

Earlier this year the company announced it would be embracing new packaging technology to reduce costs.

John West hits back over place on Greenpeace sustainable tuna list

John West tuna owner Simplot has responded to its negative listing on the Greenpeace canned tuna guide 2012, saying it “has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years.”

The annual list compiled by environmental campaign group Greenpeace ranks tuna brands according to their efforts to implement and maintain sustainable fishing practises.

This year it ranked John West towards the bottom of the list, saying “John West is the largest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs [fish aggregating devices] in Australia.”

“It is having the most damaging impact on marine life so John West is the stand out culprit of Australia's tuna industry,” Greenpeace continued.

“It has a responsibility to do better.

“Improvements in traceability are welcome, but John West has taken a step back on labelling.”

While Greenpeace recognised that John West has “good traceability,” “supports marine reserves” and has “100 per cent skipjack tuna, mostly from the Western Central Pacific Ocean, it noted the company’s failings as “the biggest seller of tuna caught using destructive FADs with purse seine nets,” and that its “labelling does not include the catch area or fishing method.”

Woolworths, Coles and Sole Mare were also at the bottom of its list and Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a statement that while tuna companies worldwide have made the improvement to their operations reduce by-catch of marine life, Greenpeace hopes that “major Australian companies such as John West will do the same” this year.

John West released a statement saying it is a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) position on FADs and that all its tuna products will all be sourced sustainably by 2015.

“We are aware that Greenpeace has made claims to the media regarding the sustainability of John West tuna products and in particular the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs), a device used to attract fish,” a John West spokesperson said.

“John West has been working towards improving the sustainability of John West’s products for many years and in 2012 we were proud to announce our partnership with the world’s largest independent conservation organisation, WWF.”

John West slammed the Greenpeace statement that it had 10 per cent by-catch, labelling it false.

It said that the current level of John West by-catch from FADS was 2 per cent.

“The majority of tuna used in our products is sourced from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean purse seine fishery (tuna used in our Pole and Line range is sourced from the Maldives),” the spokesperson said.

“Data collected by independent scientific observers shows that non tuna species comprise less than 2 per cent of the catch in this fishery.

“In addition last year over 60 per cent of fishing activity was undertaken without using FADs – a device used to attract fish.”

“Sustainability is a journey that we embarked on many years ago and is something that we are passionate about. We will continue to work towards improving the sustainability of our seafood products in order to reach our 2015 goal.”

What do you think of John West's statement? Do you think fish companies need to do more to improve sustainable fishing practises?

Maggie Beer slams supermarket dominance

Celebrity chef and food producer is the latest industry insider to accuse the major supermarkets of failing to support Australian food growers and manufacturers.

“So many Australians seek the cheapest alternative in food, and perhaps this is exacerbated by the big two [Coles and Woolworths], our duopoly, that pits one against the other in price wars, that see the farmer suffer. We have to do something about that,” she told the International Year of Co-operatives conference in Port Macquarie last week.

Beer’s pate, quince paste and ice creams sell through major supermarkets and independent retailers at a higher price than other comparable item, due to their high quality standard and use of Australian ingredients.

She said that while most Australians say they support Australian made and owned products, their purchasing behaviour proves otherwise.

''It's interesting Australians say they will support Australian-made and Australian-grown, but will we?”

“We support what's marketed most, and we so often support what's cheapest, especially with food.''

Beer was awarded an Order of Australia this year, after finding recognition for her cookbooks and television series focussed on cooking.

Beer has echoed the statements of Independent Queensland MP Bob Katter, who earlier this year told Parliament that the major supermarkets are killing our farmers.

''If we don't support our farmers, we will not continue to enjoy the freshness and the diversity of the produce we have now,'' she said.

''I have to say flavour, seasonality, ripeness, can not travel a long way.

Beer is in a good position to comment on the realities of farming, since she owns a farm in South Australia’s Barossa Valley with vineyards, olive groves, quince orchards and a soft fruit orchard.

“I know we live in a global market, but our local farmers can not compete against the imports of a global market when it comes to the cost of our labour.

''It's important that we pay a proper wage to a farm worker that not only sustains a family but sustains farming communities – whole communities.''

Terry Toohey Australian Dairy Farmers Director, told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit earlier this year that the impact of Coles and Woolworths’ price wars will continue to drive farmers away.

"The retail actions are certainly impacting the dairy farmers in a negative way, this combined with the uncertainties and other factors [impacting] dairy or other farming, it's making it unattractive for the next generation, because it's not profitable for my children,” he said.

"If I was old and had children ready to take over the farm, I will tell them blue in the face not to come into agriculture.

“And that's pretty sad after 107 years on the one farm."

“It’s an unfortunate reality that milk price is a dollar.

“[It’s] simply unsustainable for all involved in the fresh food market.

“You can see the dairy farmers’ dairy families already suffering for Coles’ tactics.

“Given the sheer size of the supermarket duopoly, over 75 per cent of the market is between the two powers, and they are wielding that Australian marketplace and the majority of Australian suppliers, particularly to the fresh food industry,” he said.

“In NSW, my state, I see farmers being asked to sign contracts for 3 cents a litre than their previous contracts," he said.

“This will have astronomical effects on fund and profit margins.”

“In my case I’ll have 40 per cent of my tier 2 of milk [purchased] at 18 cents [per litre].

“The cost of products is 40 cents [per litre].

“So, you start to look and say, I’m only one person, there are 800 dairy farmers in NSW alone.”

Beer also joined the myriad of critics of Australia’s current labelling laws, saying they make it very difficult for consumers to understand which products are locally-grown.

''We were bottling some of our olives,” she explained.

“The salt came from South Australia and we had some of our own red wine vinegar in the jar and we were labelling it and then we found out we could not say 'Produce of Australia' because the jar came from overseas.''

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, who launched his own food company over a decade ago, has also voiced his concerns about the ability for local companies to compete against cheap imports.

“The freedom we’ve usually had in Australia is that you could go to a supermarket and decide if you wanted to buy Australian, imported, high-quality, low-quality, it was up to you," he said earlier this year.

“ALDI has taken that decision away.

“The problem is that because so many of us go to ALDI because the prices are cheaper, Coles and Woolworths will copy.

“The reason ALDI’s so successful is you can’t compare a price.

“What Coles and Woolworths will do to compete with that, which they must do because they have Aussie mums and dads as shareholders and the board will get the sack if they don’t keep making profits each year, so they will go to more and more products where you can’t compare a price.

"I call that ‘extreme capitalism,’ and it’s a disadvantage to consumers."

Do you agree with Maggie Beer's comments? How can we fix this problem?

Image: Australian Traveller

Consumers should make own choice on caged eggs: industry body

A leading representative group for the egg industry has slammed announcements from leading supermarkets and other retailers that they will sell only cage-free eggs.

Australian Egg Corporation Limited has labelled the decision by Coles and Woolworths to refuse to sell eggs from one egg production system as “misguided.”

It believes the decision whether or not to purchase caged eggs should be based on a consumer’s personal choice and not a forced decision.

The AECL says consumers are being “manipulated” because cage eggs do actually “deliver welfare benefits to hens.”

Woolworths has announced its removal of caged eggs from its Woolworths Select brand line, and true to form, Coles also decided to follow suit this week announcing that by January it will have the same rules.

Coles had previously committed two years ago to banning caged eggs in its private label line by 2014, but will now bring that forward by a year.

The Animals Australia television campaign currently being shown nation-wide is misleading consumers by using emotive language and well-known personalities to promote their message, according to AECL.

James Kellaway, AECL Managing Director said the proof is in the figures, with current statistics showing 55 per cent of the Australian egg market is made up by caged eggs.

The remainder is made up by barn-laid and free-range eggs.