AUSTRALIA’S advancing supermarket wars have reached Ballarat, with local stores cutting their prices to win over your business.
But for two consumers at least, a simple love of peanut butter has lead to a lasting change in their shopping habits.
Truck-driver Jeff Brownrigg and his wife Tracey Steiner said the national debate around home-brand products, alleged bullying of suppliers and freight companies to lower their prices and Made in Australia labels took second place to their search for good peanut butter.
“It’s nice to be able to buy Australian made products and support local producers, so as long as it actually tastes like real peanut butter, we’re happy,” Ms Steiner said.
The plea for taste comes days after independent supermarket group IGA announced they would fire shots in the pricing war, launching their Locked Down Prices specials.
Ryans IGA general manager Ben Ryan said more than 2000 products in the group’s four Ballarat stores would be discounted.
“All our stores will have the products at between 5 and 25 per cent off their normal price for 12 weeks, and then we will select another 2000 and do it all again,” he said.
“I wouldn’t comment on what big companies like Coles and Woolworths are doing to lower their prices but we are comfortable with winning customers over with good prices and supporting the community,” he said.
Mr Brownrigg said he knew that freight companies risked “going to the wall” because of pressures from large retailers, and that he wouldn’t shop at big supermarkets again.
“We have decided we’re going to have to start going to IGA for our main shop and only use the others when we absolutely have to, because they have stopped stocking products we’ve bought for years like the Dick Smith peanut butter.
“Locally grown and produced is very important to me as I was born and bred on a dairy farm, and knowing what the big stores are doing to local suppliers makes me angry.”
Mr Brownrigg said informed purchasing and even consumer boycotts would change behaviour.
Maverick federal MP Bob Katter this week proposed new laws to regulate the price of milk, label imported produce with health warnings and limit the market share of big supermarkets to 20 per cent.
A spokesperson for Coles Australia said the company rejected assertions it had treated suppliers badly or was taking unfair steps to win market share.
Mr Katter said politicians should get angry about the way the larger stores treated growers, including those in the Ballarat region.
“When they talk about fruit and vegetables they talk about Coles and Woolies, not the farmers,” he said.
“You couldn’t possibly produce at the money levels that are being offered by Woolworths and Coles.”
He joined calls from Independent senator Nick Xenophon for the businesses to front a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.