Question Time: Supermarket Superpowers and Ethical Groceries
Competition drives prices lower and forces everyone to improve their game – so it’s in the consumer’s interest, right? Well, not really, unless price is the only thing you care about.
The domination of major supermarkets Coles and Woolworths over our groceries has a wider impact than most of us realise: not just on what we buy, but on what Australian farmers grow, the kind of produce other retailers can access, and the quality of what’s available to eat.
There’s also an environmental impact: so-called economies of volume can result in inefficiencies of size, and the destruction of large volumes of food. And when all the growers in a region are contracted to the supermarket giants, alternative retailers are forced to travel further afield to source produce.
Investigative journalist (and acclaimed novelist) Malcolm Knox has explored all of these issues for The Monthly, and in Supermarket Monsters: The Price of Coles and Woolworths' Dominance. Madeleine Morris talks to Knox, as well as sustainable food specialists Dr Nick Rose and Kirsten Larsen, to untangle it all.
Madeleine Morris is a Melbourne-based reporter for ABC television’s 7.30. She was formerly a presenter for the BBC in London and reported from dozens of countries before returning to her native Australia. She is the author of Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding: Why Your Formula-Fed Baby Can Grow Up To Be Happy, Healthy and Smart, published by Finch.
Malcolm Knox is the author of Summerland, A Private Man and Jamaica, which was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award last year and won the Colin Roderick Award. He is also a Walkley Award-winning journalist and author of many non-fiction titles, including Supermarket Monsters: The Price of Coles and Woolworths' Dominance.
Kirsten Larsen has been investigating the ins and outs of all things food for around eight years. From a background in state government sustainability, climate and food policy, Kirsten turned to systemic analysis of food security and sustainability and has been involved in the development and implementation of food policies at state and local government levels, including the City of Melbourne.
Dr Nick Rose is the National Coordinator of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and the Food Systems Coordinator with the Food Alliance at Deakin University. He served as a Director of the Food Connect Foundation from 2009-2014, and has consulted with several local governments in the development of local food and sustainable agriculture policies and strategies.