Lifting produce participation in Australia's retail produce market

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Lifting produce participation in Australia's retail produce market

The rivalry between supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths is well known in Australia. The two chains are the biggest in the country but both have been unsuccessful in completely dominating the market when it comes to fresh produce. The issue was a hot topic at the Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand’s (PMA) Fresh Connections 2012 event in Melbourne last week.

Citi Australia managing director of consumer research Craig Woolford, says fresh produce sales amount to only 10-12% of supermarkets' sales mix, with several hurdles faced by major supermarket chains to raise these percentages.

"Fresh produce serves as the greatest opportunity for supermarkets - supermarkets have strong ambitions to grow their share of the produce market share," says Woolford.

He believes Australian shopping habits are responsible for the lack of fresh produce sold compared to what could potentially be possible. The average shopper makes 2.5  visits to the supermarket each week with an average basket value of around AUD$35 (US$35.80).

"There is not a lot of loyalty among shoppers," he adds.

On average only 10.5% of Woolworths shoppers will shop there exclusively.

"There is a lot of cross shopping in Australia and location is still the biggest driver in supermarket choice."

Peter Huskins from retail consultancy agency Shopability, agrees the key for Australian supermarkets to succeed and stimulate significant growth in fresh food sales lies in their ability to work the "purchase cycle".

He says customer interaction is needed pre-store with catalogues, in-store interaction can come through various materials such as recipe cards, while post-store interaction is also highly relevant.

"How can we make them disciples for our store?"

He says more efforts are needed with QR codes where there is the potential to show consumers farmer videos or recipes for their produce.

"It's about using the purchase cycle to leverage customer’s loyalty."

Freshlogic Australia's Martin Kneebone agrees the use of technology is a vital opportunity for supermarkets to steal retail space from their competitors.

"What happens outside the retailer is more important then what happens within the bricks and mortar of the store," he says.

Kneebone explains how technology such as Woolworths' virtual supermarket in Melbourne's Flinders Street Station are all examples of how technology can eliminate the chore of supermarket shopping.

"The frequency of shop visits indicates that shopping really is a lot of work."

International supermarkets such as Tesco have paved the way for such advances with great success.

"The Internet really is the sharp edge of change on the frontier," says Kneebone.

Delivery of supermarket shopping to your door and making purchases on a mobile phone, have all paved the way for Coles and Woolworths to potentially seize a greater share of the Australian fresh produce retail space. In turn, this could increase their growth of fresh produce sales where recently, there has been little increase in average sales.

"Technology really is a potentially strong game changer."

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