Australians have chosen their favourite supermarket chain – and it’s not Coles or Woolworths.
Many of us won’t even recognise it.
The unexpected winner comes after consumer research found the coronavirus pandemic has fuelled more demand among Australian shoppers for locally made products.
Now, it appears our affinity for all things local extends beyond the products to the supermarkets themselves.
In a new survey by Choice, shoppers said their favourite supermarket was South Australian franchise Foodland.
If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone.
The chain only operates in SA, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
In second place was Drakes in South Australia and Queensland, followed by Harris Farm Markets in New South Wales.
Together with Foodland, these chains rated higher than their competitors for product range, available brands and availability of locally produced foods.
Locally owned shops strike a chord
Although Foodland only operates in three states and territories, the chain’s success comes as no surprise, said Professor Gary Mortimer, a retail expert at Queensland University of Technology’s business school.
“These types of family-owned local supermarkets do tend to connect well with the community,” he told The New Daily.
That’s because they offer more locally produced products, and the owners are usually locals who hire team members from the community, he said.
They also tend to support more community events, like school fundraisers.
In 2016, Foodland shocked Australia when its Frewville store in Adelaide was named the best supermarket in the world.
Unlike most supermarkets, the Frewville store offers a rotation of in-store community events, including a night market and live piano performances.
For those who prefer a less-stimulating environment, the supermarket has regular ‘quiet hours’, where lights are dimmed and noise is reduced to create a calming, stress-free experience.
Professor Mortimer added the pandemic was strengthening this connection between communities and their supermarkets.
“We certainly have seen in 2020 a return to localism as a result of stay-at-home directives, increased working from home, and less commuter traffic going into CBDs,” he said.
“If you’re at home, you’re more likely to shop local, have a coffee at a local shop and support local business and local brands.”
Although Foodland was ranked No.1 for overall customer satisfaction, other supermarket chains shone in different categories in the survey.
For example, shoppers seeking value for money rated Aldi the highest, while voters picked Harris Farm Markets as the best for quality fresh produce.
It’s not all bad news for Coles and Woolworths, either.
Shoppers gave both chains points for their online shopping services, self-serve checkout options, product range, brands and easy access to trolleys and baskets.
“What’s really interesting is we all complain about self-serve checkouts, but the research shows that’s what we want, with Coles and Woolworths winning on that type of checkout,” Professor Mortimer said.
The only criterion Coles and Woolworths rate best for (on par with Foodland) is their opening hours.
They rate lower than at least some of their competitors on all other criteria.