Choice continues with grocery price comparison push

Posted by Isobel Drake on 27th November 2009

Consumer group Choice has not let the Federal Government’s decision to scrap the GroceryChoice website stop them from comparing supermarket prices across the country.

The national survey of grocery prices in Coles and Woolworths found residents of Geelong, Victoria, and the Central Coast of NSW enjoy the cheapest basket of goods in the country – while consumers in Bunbury (WA) pay up to 11% more.

The independent price survey – which was carried out on a basket of 35 items, including bread, rice and bananas – varied in cost from $123.15 in Geelong to more than $136 in Hobart and Bunbury, south of Perth.

Shoppers in NSW, Qld, ACT, Vic and SA paid $125-128 for an average basket of groceries from the two major chains compared with those in the NT, Tasmania and WA who paid $133-135.

The reasons for higher prices in some areas are a result of less competitive pressure, higher transport costs and reduced economies of scale, the consumer group said.

Choice sent undercover shoppers to 145 supermarkets in 24 cities around the nation including Coles, Woolworths/Safeway, Aldi, IGA and FoodWorks.

The figures show that nationally the price difference in a basket between Coles ($127.67 and Woolworths ($126.87) was negligible. A comparable basket of ALDI home brand products cost 25% less at $94.30. The independents IGA ($142.68) and FoodWorks ($154.73) were most expensive.

“The presence of ALDI in the eastern states provides more competition to Woolworths and Coles, which encourages the big two to price more keenly,” Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn suggested.

“By buying items that were on specials the basket price was about $10 cheaper but it’s generally the suppliers who have to wear the cost, which can disadvantage smaller players. Fresh food prices vary a lot so it pays to shop around.”

Major price changes over past couple of years

Since the last survey in 2007 of specific brands the packaged rice went up by almost 26%, the dog food by 22% and pasta spirals by 19%. But the cheapest available middle rasher bacon and sliced white bread both dropped by about 11%.