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Everyday Enviro with Elise - Benefits of shopping small

Date: 07-Jan-20
Author: Elise Catterall

Have you ever wondered how the supermarkets you grace affect the food you end up consuming.

Have you ever wondered how the supermarkets you grace affect the food you end up consuming.

A few years ago when I was studying for my Master of Public Health, we looked at the role that supermarkets play in diet and health of the Australian population. We found that they played a significant role then and they still do - partly due to the sheer numbers of Australians who shop at the three major supermarkets and partly due to extent of the private label foods (own brands) that these supermarkets increasingly stock. The fact that their policies on social responsibility in regards to nutrition are unlikely to be adequate.

Now, I understand that you are not here to read about public health nutrition, and that this is an environmental column, but when it comes to the major supermarkets and the increasing number of supermarket own brand foods (SOBFs) carried by them, there are environment effects. Not effects related to fresh food packaging (which is significant), not effects related to importing and selling of non-seasonal fresh food (also significant). Instead it’s about the own brand foods themselves. 

Currently, own brand foods make up around 18% of food sales, but the major supermarkets are working towards this number increasing over the coming years. While this might initially mean lower prices on some items for customers, it hands away a huge amount of control over our food supply and a lot of power to retailers – especially regarding where food products and individual ingredients are sourced from.

It is accepted that the Australian food industry will be heavily impacted and will especially suffer if, as predicted, supermarkets seek out cheaper overseas suppliers. This will equate to huge numbers of carbon miles not to mention impacts on local growers and their communities. 

So what can be done to combat this? Well, while the supermarkets in question do appear to be instituting measures to lower their environmental impact, and that should be encouraged, I live in a part of Sydney where I have lots of shopping choice. With that in mind, I’ll be doing what many of you are probably already doing - preferentially shopping at independent supermarkets (Harris Farm Markets has particularly strong environmental practices, including supporting local growers), wholefood bulk stores and farmers’ markets.

If I have a choice to make between products, I’ll choose Australian brands and ingredients over imported. The benefits will not only be to me and my family – local food is seasonal and fresher, which equates to better nutrition – but to the growers, the broader community and the environment.

See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Elise                                             Catterall
Author: Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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