Bananas are back, loyalty is lost

BANANA prices are falling – they’re now selling for under $8/kg.
You can probably hear the collective sigh of relief being breathed by mums around the country.
That school lunch staple is back on the shopping list – Praise be to the Lunchbox God.
New research by Nielsen Australia shows that when banana prices soared in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, banana household penetration fell from around 70 -75 per cent to as low as 20-25 per cent.
What that means in normal English is that usually 75 per cent of households buy bananas but when the price/kg rose to $15 because the cyclone wiped out most of the North Queensland plantations, only 25per cent of Australia households bought them.
We’re a fickle customer and we decided to buy other fruit instead – strawberries, apples, pears, oranges and grapes were the big winners … apparently.
Lately I’ve spent many hours thinking about the price of fruit and veg … I’m married to a vegetable farmer so it affects our household budget a bit more than usual.
After my many hours of reflection what I can’t understand is why we – as a nation – are so price sensitive when it comes to our fresh produce?
Why do we stop buying certain fruit and veg when the price gets a bit higher than normal, yet we think nothing of blowing $20 at the local fast food joint?
Do you know the average price of a pack of Tim Tams? What did that Big Mac cost you last week? How much was that can of coke you bought yesterday?
Nope, didn’t think you’d know. So why then can we regurgitate the weekly fruit and vegetable prices with very little effort.
Onions are selling for $4.99/kg – daylight robbery.
Strawberries are cheap – two punnets for $5. Blueberries? You’ll have to mortgage the house today – $9 a punnet.
And of course bananas – the cacophony of complaints when the price hit $15/kg was deafening.
But if you break it down even at those heady highs it still only worked out to about $1.50/banana. Same price as a Mars Bar … yet with so much more goodness.
But the high price of bananas isn’t the only thing that’s affecting our spending habits.
According to Nielsen, our two biggest concerns are the rising cost of utilities and fuel.
Our worry about the rising cost of living led us to think twice about what we buy.
Insights from Nielsen’s Homescan panel in Australia show that 32,000 less households bought fresh fruit this year relative to last year and 16,000 fewer households bought fresh vegetables.
We did buy more frozen and canned products though.
And we’re now buying more private label brands too. We used to think private label products (Home Brand, Black & Gold) were only for people who couldn’t afford better and were of a poorer quality.
Now we think we’re clever because we’re getting a brand that’s just as good for less money.
Our shopping trends are apparently being driven by value for money promotions and it’s why the major retailers have invested millions on campaigns such as ‘Down Down’ and ‘Price Knockdown’.
Over the past six years the private label share of total grocery has grown from 17.5 per cent to 24.6 per cent.
My husband spends his days coaxing carrots, onions, potatoes and green beans from the ground. He – and a team of passionate fresh food people – invest their heart, soul and millions of dollars into growing healthy, fresh food for markets around Australia.
No one forced them to choose farming as a profession – so it’s not sympathy I’m after here. But what I do wonder is why Australians don’t seem to value the abundance of safe, high-quality fresh food that is available in our stores for a very reasonable price? Why they’re so ready to ‘jump ship’ at the slightest hint of a price rise. Why their focus is always on ‘How cheap’, not on ‘What’s the quality like and is it Australian?’
Maybe in 2012, the Australian Year of the Farmer, we can stop and consider the benefits and healthy products farmers provide us … before it’s too late.

  • Alice

    No fruit Wendy? You’re missing out!

  • Wendy

    Definitely food for thought Alice. I myself don’t eat fruit but when it comes to vegetables they are the one thing I don’t even check the price on when buying. That must be the vegie farmer of old shining through.