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When it comes to grocery shopping, how much choice is too much?

The Australian supermarket category is one that always generates a strong response. So when we asked you recently to tell us what you thought about Coles and Woolworths reducing the number of brands because their customers thought too much choice made their shopping decisions stressful, we knew you would have a lot to say!

There is no doubt that there is an element of truth to the idea that too much choice can be overwhelming. A number of you welcome the prospect of a quicker and easier shopping trip. As one shopper says; “I find many choices unnecessary and believe that many choices lead to higher prices as well as taking longer.”

However, it's not all so straightforward. The flip side of less choice is that favourite brands have become harder to find as they disappear from the shelves of the major supermarkets. People have already noticed that trusted Australian brands have been replaced by overseas-produced home brands.

“It annoys me the supermarkets giving us less choice. I noticed many years ago them cutting brands off their shelves. Golden Circle tin beans…Australian company replaced with foreign tins. They cut more brands and replace it with generics and cheap foreign rubbish.”

So while making choices simpler might be worthy, the supermarkets' idea of simplifying choice is not the same as yours.

"Life is easier if there are a few better and quality brands, rather than a few just ok brands which we keep ignoring."

This is already having an impact on shopping behaviour for many people. In order to keep buying favourite brands, many need to make multiple supermarket trips each week.

There are two big winners from this trend, and it’s not Coles and Woolworths. Fairly new competitor ALDI is viewed very favourably as it offers high quality home brands at cheap prices. However, as most people realise they can't do a complete shop at Aldi alone, independent supermarkets such as IGA and Foodland that still stock a wide (and different) range of brands are becoming more popular.

"The result of this is that I'm shopping at independent supermarkets quite often these days as and when I require things, rather than the traditional once-a-week shop."

The crux of it is that too much choice is only a problem when it means that shoppers can't find what they want. Supermarkets looking to reduce the number of brands on their shelves will need to be careful which brands they keep, to avoid forcing customers to start shopping elsewhere to find their favourite brands.

Last reply: 8th Aug 2018 / 16 replies / Post by Cafestudy Admin

Reply

CSD

Posted by: CSD
Posted on: 4th May 2018

CSD says: As an aged pensioner faced with low income and growing costs of house maintenance, heating and increasing needs of medications, not all of which are on PBIS Scheme, despite being recommended by the hospital. Not having any family but so grateful for support from my local council I despair of the two leading supermarkets. I can see where they are targetting, which are families. This view is because the greatest savings seems to be on "family packs". Much too much for one person and a fridge that is used by a single person. The unused food just can't fit into a freezer and can become very boring to eat continuously. With mobility restrictions, I am unable to access Aldi or IGA shops (and I live in inner Melbourne). Really there is very little choice for someone like me.

In reality, there is a Woolworths 400 metres from my house but, in struggling to walk there (and walking is important to keep fit), I have to cross a busy road to reach there before resting to get my shopping. The staff are very good and caring but they can't change the nature of the stock, which is becoming more and more limited, and focused on the Home Brand. Occasionally a friend or a neighbour will take me to Coles, when they have time. I notice that Coles has its own Home Brands but also many others which have disappeared from Woolworths.

I have visited Aldi two or three times and was confused by a different range of products which I didn't know. It took me a while to walk around and assess everything. My confusion was at the checkout but that was through my ignorance.

My friend also took me to a nearly close IGA store, which was wonderful. It stocked a lot of brands that were no longer available in the main supermarkets, which I knew worked and were good value. Being based in North West Melbourne, the IGA also had wonderful meats that were not "family packs", beautiful cheeses, Mediterranean, delicatesant selections.and joyful treats.

I am fortunate in that where I live there are many independent shops of different and enjoyable ethnicities. I am not so fortunate in that I cannot access them. So, I guess, where I live is choice and it;s different people's choice. I regret the loss of alternatives shut down buy supermarket home brands.

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