The number of Australians who say supermarkets stock their favourite brands has continued to decline since its 2011 peak, according research released last week by Roy Morgan.
Just over half (56%) of the nearly 3000 Woolworths shoppers surveyed say the supermarket carries the brands they want, compared with 64% who said the supermarket did in October 2011.
When it comes to rival Coles, just 52% of the 2000 customers surveyed say the supermarket stocks their favourite brands, down from 59% in June 2011.
The figures are even worse for IGA and Aldi, where 48% and 29% of customers respectively say the independent supermarket chains stocked the brands they wanted.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
The general manager of consumer products at Roy Morgan Research, Geoffrey Smith, told SmartCompany shoppers are noticing the brands they want are quietly disappearing from shelves, replaced by private-label brands
“It’s not like Coles and Woolworths say they’re delisting the products. They just go, or get replaced, and consumers are noticing,” he says.
But a lack of alternatives means that even though consumer are increasingly unable to find the brands they want, the vast majority still shop at the two major supermarkets, he says.
When it comes to assessing the power of supermarkets over their suppliers, regulators often refer to ‘must-have’ brands, which it is believed supermarkets must supply as otherwise their customers will go elsewhere for their groceries.
This concept is rarely tested with much rigour, competition lawyer Alexandra Merrett told a public symposium on supermarket power held by the University of Melbourne and Monash University on Thursday.
However, Merrett and her colleague Rhonda Smith in June this year set out to test this concept of ‘must-have’ brands by looking at what brands supermarkets chose to promote in their catalogues during a one-month period.
Using this analysis, the pair concluded that most brands only appeared occasionally in supermarket catalogues, suggesting they aren’t very important to getting customers through the door.
Brands which appeared in every Coles and Woolworths catalogue were Arnott’s, Cadburys, Coca Cola, Colgate, Huggies, Kellogg’s, M&Ms, McCain, Nestle, San Remo, Sara Lee, and Tip Top.
Merrett’s analysis, like that conducted by Ray Morgan, also found Aldi was far less likely to stock non-Aldi brands.
This can be explained by its vastly different business model, Merrett said.
“Aldi just isn’t playing in the same ‘pool’ as everyone else,” she said.