Jun 14, 2012
COLES and Woolworths have been accused of blacklisting local
suppliers who publicly criticise aggressive price discounts by the big
supermarkets and their rapid expansion into home-brand products.
departing chief executive of the Winemakers Federation of Australia,
Stephen Strachan, said the supermarket giants had used their market
dominance to create a culture of fear and intimidation among local wine
''If you're an individual company that speaks out
against them or says anything publicly that criticises their tactics,
they would have no hesitation in giving you a holiday from their
shelves,'' Mr Strachan said.
He said the bullying was not confined to Australian winemakers.
''It's happening in every area of food and beverage you'd care to mention,'' he said.
Strachan would speak to The Sunday Age only after ending his role with
the Winemakers Federation on Friday, amid claims that Coles and
Woolworths had previously tried to undermine his position within the
''Whenever I've made comments in the press, I could
only talk about retailers in a generic sense, but they would
religiously follow up on those comments and make it known they were
displeased,'' Mr Strachan said.
Senator Nick Xenophon, a member
of a federal parliamentary inquiry into the food processing industry,
said an effective supermarket duopoly meant businesses with complaints
about Coles and Woolworths were fearful of publicly airing them.
said the Senate committee would probably have had more luck trying to
get people to speak out about the Mafia in Sicily 50 years ago.
''This is an inevitable consequence of having two players with so much market share,'' Senator Xenophon said.
Coles spokesman, Jim Cooper, rejected the claims. He said retailers
could not be blamed for the national wine glut, which was the biggest
issue facing Australia's embattled wine industry.
disappointed that the Winemakers Federation has chosen to attack wine
retailers, rather than acknowledge the countless instances where they
have collaborated with winemakers to help them sell their excess
volumes,'' Mr Cooper said.
But allegations that big retailers
were abusing market power were backed by Kate Carnell, who stepped down
as the head of the Australian Food and Grocery Council in March.
have been lots of small suppliers who have been delisted for a variety
of reasons,'' she said. ''There is such market dominance it's impossible
to have anything like a level playing field, at a time when both
companies are expanding their home-brand labels.''
Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien flagged that the nation's
biggest supermarket chain would double its offering of home-brand
products to eventually represent about a third of total sales.
has adopted a similar strategy, which has intensified competition for
shelf space and reduced margins for some local suppliers.
Sunday Age contacted 12 food and wine producers, who all declined to
speak on the record. ''I can't afford to say anything that will get them
off-side,'' one said.
Coles urged The Sunday Age to contact
Steve Grimeley, of Loom Wine, who said his family business in McLaren
Vale had always enjoyed a strong relationship with the retailer.
don't want to get involved in a high-profile slanging match, but from a
global perspective, it's a bit unfair to single out Coles and
Woolworths for criticism,'' Mr Grimeley said.
Woolworths did not respond to questions before deadline.
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