Supermarkets in Australia

Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world. Woolworths and Wesfarmers (owner of Coles) account for almost 80% of supermarket sales, 60% of alcohol retail, 50% of petrol retail and 40% of all retail in Australia. The more market share they have the more influence they have over suppliers and the easier it is to stamp out smaller independent retailers.

ABC’s Hungry Beast program  (March 10, 2010)  The Beast File: Woolies & Coles


The Big players

Woolworths is Australia’s largest owner of poker machines (11,584 machines) and the largest seller of tobacco and alcohol.  [profile]

Wesfarmers operates in the areas of retail, coal mining, energy, insurance, chemicals and fertilisers as well as industrial and safety products. It bought Coles Group in 2007 for $22 billion.  [profile]

Metcash, who supply IGA Supermarkets, accounts for 16% of supermarket sales. Metcash distributes primarily to independently owned stores. They supply IGA, Foodland, Foodworks, 7-Eleven, Lucky 7, BP and several liquor retailers.  [profile]

Aldi opened its first Australian store in 2001 and now operate more than 400 stores across Australia. Most brands in store are ALDI owned. Over 80% of products are Australian made. Criticisms of the German parent company includes worker exploitation, and issues with their palm oil supply.  [profile]

Woolworths and Metcash both moved into hardware retail in recent years, competing with Wesfarmers’ Bunnings. Metcash now owns Mitre 10 and Home Timber & Hardware, while Woolworths launched Masters Home Improvement in 2011, but announced it would close all stores by Dec 2016.

The supermarket giants have been blamed for Australia having the fastest growing grocery prices in the developed world.

Woolworths, Safeway,
Thomas Dux (& more in NZ)
IGA, Supa IGA,
Dan Murphy’s, BWS,
Cellarmasters, Langtons
plus 323 hotels with
11,584 poker machines
1st Choice, Liquorland,
Vintage Cellars,
plus 89 hotels with
3,000+ poker machines
Cellarbrations, Bottle-O,
IGA Plus Liquor
distributes to over 15,000
liquor retailers
Caltex Woolworths
Coles Express (with Shell)
IGA X-press, Lucky 7
Big W
Kmart, Target
EziBuy (online)
Bunnings, Officeworks,
Harris Technology
Mitre 10, True Value,
Home Hardware, Thrifty-Link
Woolworths, Homebrand,
Select, Fresh, Organic,
Macro, Naytura, Freefrom
Coles, $mart Buy,
Simply Basics, Derma,
Purr and Banquet pet foods
Black & Gold, IGA,
Signature, Way of Life,
Purely Organics, Foodland
75% of Australian Leisure
and Hospitality Group. Operations in NZ,
Hong Kong and China
Operations in coal mining,
energy, insurance,
chemicals and fertilisers,
industrial & safety products
Distributor & brand owner.
Stores are independently
owned. Also distributes to
Foodworks, 7-Eleven, BP

* distribution only. The stores are independently owned. The retail brands are owned by Metcash.


Private Labels

Supermarket owned brands (known as ‘private label’ or generic ‘house brands’) command a 25% market share, expected to rise to 30% in the near future.

‘House brands’ mean big profits for supermarkets and are geared towards customer loyalty by creating products that can only be purchased in their store. Most major supermarkets are trying to shake the poor quality image of generic brands by rolling out their own tiered labelling structure with each tier cleverly marketed to appeal to a different customer base.

As major supermarket chains give more shelf space to their own brand items the ‘name brand’ products are being squeezed off the shelves with only the top selling items remaining. For customers this means less variety, less choice and the disappearance of familiar brands from the aisles. For supermarkets it creates a shift in bargaining power further down the supply chain; Australian farmers and wholesalers have little choice but to sell through the supermarkets’ own brands and are forced to compete with cheaper and often heavily subsidised foreign imports.

  The TRUTH About the Supermarket Milk Price War (February 26, 2013) 

Information on who manufactures specific house brand products is not commonly available, however the following directory is a list of companies and services that fulfil private label requirements. It gives some indication of who the major suppliers are.  Private Label Manufacturers Association directory


Further Key Resources:

   Four Corners (August 1, 2008) The Price We Pay


What can you do:

  • Look beyond the supermarkets for essentials. Find food co-ops, box systems, swap meets near you at Local Harvest.
  • Shop at independent grocers and small supermarkets. Search for an IGA near you.
  • Choose local, independent Australian owned brands, over generic supermarket house brands.
  • If you’re buying a home brand read the label and look for ‘Product of Australia’ and ‘Made in Australia” over imported.