You will know by now that my writing genre is substantially impact by tongue in cheek humour – in other words, I’m a ‘Smart Alec’. However this blog deals with a subject far too serious with which to be flippant. Believe me when I say, we’re being conned!

I want you to imagine what it would be like to walk into your local supermarket and find every shelf packed with nothing but supermarket brands. No Heinz, no Kelloggs, no Robert Timms and no Coke. The familiar locations you dedicated to memory, where once the Arnotts biscuits proudly projected their brand, is now occupied by a badly designed pack of imitation Tim Tams, a product of Taiwan. Your Dorsogna ham is long gone, replaced by the cryovac facsimile of a Canadian product. That tin of Golden Circle Pineapples is now a golden triangle product from a province in Thailand. Unlikely? Don’t kid yourself!

If you couldn’t care less, you should, and unless you act now you can kiss goodbye to your Australian farmer and the food manufacturers that support them. So who is responsible? Let’s not guild the lily here, Coles and Woolworths are double handedly, double crossing the consumer, the farmer, the supplier and to hell with anyone but their shareholders and the company fat cats.

Once upon a time, supermarket private packaged goods represented just 20% of their offerings, today it’s closer to 40% and if you are in any doubt as to where these guys are heading, ask yourself why Coles have recently appointed senior executives from British company’s, Asda and Sainsburys, where their expertise is based on the highest percentage of private labels possible. Woolworths and Coles will deny it and you may be inclined to sit back and worry not, but here’s the frightening thing. These two operations combined have a take of 80 cents in every grocery dollar spent. That my friends is CONTROL and that, for all of us, is a really scary fact which has significant consequences

The supermarket’s tactics for achieving grocery dominance is nothing short of obscene, not to mention immoral. Their persuasion methods to producers and manufacturers are less than subtle, sly and based on the power they believe is rightfully theirs. Rather than speculate or quote others I’d like to blow the whistle and tell you of my experience.

Some years ago as a senior executive in charge of marketing for a very large food manufacturer, I was summons to the glass adorned offices of one of Australia’s major supermarkets . After the usual sweet talk, coffee and a cheap biscuit, I was effectively told if our company did not warehouse the products we sold to their supermarket in their warehouses (engaging us in an additional 1.4% increase) 35 of our top products would be deleted from their shelves. (Please note we had enormous refrigerated warehouses built at significant cost and staffed by 60 workers, most of whom would have faced redundancy.)

I recall the horror of the Board when my report recommended that we reject their ‘kind offer’, or words to that effect. To cut a long story short the courageous Board supported my decision, the supermarket deleted 32 top products immediately. I am happy to report however, that within three months, using a strategy which will at present go unexplained, we were back on their shelves. That’s the sort of pressure supermarket executives use to get what they want. But you would do well to remember that such a tactical strategy would not have garnered one cent for the consumer, it was all for the supermarket’s own bottom line.

Food producers are being strangled – no blackmailed into submission and you the consumer think you are being offered a quality product for less while the supermarkets bleed our farmers and manufacturers dry. Make no mistake in 10 to 15 years time, food and water will be the new iron ore. While our iron ore can be depleted our agricultural sector can become the food bowl of Asia forever, if we take care of it, but that can’t happen without producers, farmers or manufacturers.

Recently, then Federal Industry Minister, Senator, Kim Carr, said, “Overtime, if our supply chains are so badly damaged, our choices are limited, they are reduced”, he went on to say,” For us to provide food security for this country, we need a strong supply chain of food manufactures”

Senator, take it from me that’s not what Woolworths and Coles think. Further the Government is powerless to change or stop them. Can no one help, where is the cavalry?

There is an answer, there are hero’s and there are solutions in the shape of YOU the consumer. YOU are the determining factor. Supermarkets have giant weaknesses because, like all commercial ventures, they are absolutely dependent on people like you and me buying their products.

If you want to protect Australian jobs, if you want to buy quality products that your family put in their mouths, if you want a future for our country kids and for Australia generally, then DO NOT BUY HOME BRAND PRIVATE LABELS. Yes you may save $20 on your weekly shopping bill, but tomorrow it will cost you more and more and you won’t be able to buy Australian. Ask yourself would you buy prawns from the waters of Japan right now?

The revolution is here. Put your money where your mouth is and insist on trusted brands and good old OZ products. That way you’ll help keep our food bowl, build the nation and your children won’t glow in the dark.