Price is still king for supermarket shoppers

Angus Kidman 27 September 2016

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Forget nutrition info panels; we're all about the up-front cost.

Sometimes, your preferred supermarket is the one that's nearest to your house or has the easiest parking. Sometimes it's the one which will pack all your groceries for you, or that doesn't complain when your kid eats a piece of fruit while you shop. But once you start actually putting goods in that trolley, the main thing that matters is how much you're paying.

A recent survey of 446 Australian shoppers by market research firm Colmar Brunton underscores that point. When asked what information they look for on the package and shelf labelling, price was by far the most important consideration, as Australian Food News reports. Price was the top consideration for 80%, and unit pricing (which provides a more effective basis for comparison) was checked by 66%. Here's the full list of what people checked for:

Where goods are produced remains important, with 64% checking if a product is Australian-made and 52% wanting to know if the manufacturer is Australian-owned. While brand was an important consideration for 58% of shoppers, the key role played by price suggests that many of us are going to settle for the cheaper store brand if the name brand is too expensive. Dietary considerations ranked somewhat lower down the scale.

Low prices are one of the key battlegrounds for supermarkets in Australia. ALDI's rapid expansion has been driven almost entirely by a lowest-price, no-frills strategy. Woolworths and Coles aim to offer a wider variety of products, but expend considerable effort to make sure that their store-brand goods are exactly the same price as the ALDI equivalents.

I'm not going to pretend that every decision we make regarding supermarkets and food shopping is rational. We complain about new Shapes flavours even though we're not buying the old ones. We fall for specials that let us earn more rewards points by buying products we don't need. But it's somewhat reassuring that we are still paying attention to the price of what we buy.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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