The obsession with low prices at the leading supermarkets is forcing quality into second place, buyers from across the trade have admitted.

The majority of buyers polled for our reader panel said competition had become so intense that quality was often compromised in order to get products to meet the required price point. One said: “To a certain extent, the industry deserves the bad press about quality. Our obsession with price is driving down quality.”

They were divided over whether it was healthy for so much power to be concentrated in so few hands, with buyers at some of the smaller players predicting legislation in the future. One commented: “There is abuse of buying power due to market share by the majors. At some stage legislation curbing their powers is probable.”

On the subject of healthy eating, most believed they could do more to help consumers make healthier choices. And one buyer at a smaller player said: “Supermarkets have a responsibility to help people make better health decisions, especially now they are increasingly dominating all sectors of the industry. It is particularly important with children’s food.”

However, with higher margins available on fresh produce than most unhealthy snacks, retailers were always keen to sell more fruit and veg, said one buyer.

Another said that, ultimately, sedentary lifestyles were largely responsible for rising obesity levels, citing the lack of sports in schools. “The demise of sport in schools is the cause of today’s obesity problems. Education is where it has to start,” he said.
Elaine Watson