Coupons have been part-and-parcel of the American grocery shopping experience for many years – over a century in fact. Yet in Australia they have never quite taken of. Considering the accelerated culture of discounting and on-going price wars perhaps it is time for their introduction into the Australian grocery experience.
It hasn’t been love at first sight for consumers and Private Labels. Rather it’s been a slow courtship with consumers showing cautious interest as they try and work out just who and what these new entrants to the marketplace are about and how they might fit into the shopping experience. But with such overwhelming presence they simply could not ignore them and a relationship is taking shape, but which is yet to blossom.
Much to their chagrin young Australians are often portrayed as overly-materialistic. We think of them as always buying the latest and greatest. That their priorities are about living for today and enjoying their earnings rather than being bogged down with planning and saving for the future.
The biggest issue mums say they face in feeding their kids has little to do with nutrition. Getting the right formulation of vitamins, fresh fruit, veggies and balance is one thing. More pressing at the dinner table is just getting kids to eat.
Consumers are confused. So many claims abound on food
products that knowing what is good, better or indifferent is a complex task.
And when shopping, time is of essence. Analysing each product, the claims it
makes and the ingredient list is taxing. So a short cut like traffic lights
would have been most welcome.
There are two key problems with food labelling for
consumers, knowing whether to trust them and understanding what they mean.
While Australian consumers lament the removal of some
favourite brands from supermarket shelves and are displeased with the major
grocery chains for doing so, they are also rapidly adopting the home brand
offerings which have taken their place.
It has taken some time for home brands to gain traction, but
slowly and steadily, by experimenting category by category, Australian
consumers are making the switch. This has not been a revolution of changing
buying behaviour, but a gradual evolution, which will set the pattern for the
future. Once they have decided a cheaper option meets their buying criteria
it’s is a big ask getting them to go back and pay the higher price again.
There are several reasons for this:
Well, we know what they were thinking – more sales and more profits. It seems they have entered into an arrangement with Blackmores, manufacturer of dietary supplements, whereby they will promote their products at point-of-sale. This has been compared by some to the upselling practices of fast food outlets.
This arrangement acts to destroy one of the most trusted brands in Australia, and that brand is “pharmacists.”
In a recent group discussion one woman was pretty adamant and wanted everyone to know about it. She insisted, at some length, that “low fat” labels are a marketing ploy which she for one certainly does not fall for. It’s for gullible consumers and she won’t be taken in by it. Rather she reads ingredients lists and makes up her own mind.
I gave the topic some space and returned to it later. It was time to challenge her. “If I were to look through your cupboards and fridge,” I asked, “would it be fair to say I would find no products labelled ‘low fat’?”
Not quite. There was low fat yogurt and cheese and ice cream and more. Intellectually she knew to challenge such claims, but emotionally she chose to believe them.
I begin with an admission. Before visiting the dentist for a thorough clean I tend to give my teeth an extra thorough clean myself, ensuring every nook and cranny are well covered with brush and floss. I do this out of shame, or in order to avoid it. After all I wouldn’t want my dentist to think poorly of my oral hygiene practices (or perhaps lack there-of).
I’m not alone. Shame avoidance is a great motivator in society.