Archive for August, 2011

In a Chinese Supermarket – Part 2

This is what greeted me at the entrance of the supermarket:

5+ A DAY!

How about that for promoting fresh produce?


 This fruit carousel also had grower information on display.

Signage was a mixture of pre-printed and handwritten.


  Going fishing supermarket style!


In these supermarkets, fish on ice is considered 2nd grade product.

The Nonsense Continues

I had the weekend edition of the NZ Herald sitting around on the dining room table all weekend, pondering whether I should add my 5 pence worth to the article entitled Fruit, vege bargains at supermarket in theweekend edition. Then I sat down to watch the 6 o’clock news tonight.  First up –the milk price again. The Minister of Agriculture, David Carter,  now suggests that a Parliamentary Select Committee should investigate milk prices.  The CEO of the Consumers Institute made ridiculous comments on camera about a “secret manual” she alleged Fonterra uses to set milk prices and a TV One reporter found that supermarkets sell 2 litres of milk for $3.60 compared to $5.20 at a dairy and $5.60 at a service station. Doh.  Oh really?  Ah, there is a story that has gone off the rails.  That does not fit the intended direction –because we all know its supermarkets which engage in price gauging right?  Carter, luckily for him, was interviewed on Q & A this morning, rather than in the evening.  His “I never buy my milk at the supermarket and I would encourage consumers to shop around” wisdom therefore went unchallenged.  Let’s get some of the facts straight.  Supermarkets are in the volume business which works really well for them with processed food; milk for example.  Milk will always be cheaper in a supermarket  than in a dairy or service station, so please stop wasting time during the news bulletin and instead report the real issues we want to hear about.  When have you last seen a super market chain advertising  milk or bread at special prices or even as a loss leader?  The answer is “you have not” as it simply does not happen. The same goes for eggs by the way. They could, but they typically do not!  Accusing supermarkets on price gauging on those products is therefore an exercise akinto shooting oneself into one’s foot!  Back to the Herald’s fruit & veg story.  At a time of extreme shortages, you can rely on supermarkets to exert pressure to keep the prices down. Not because they want to be good citizens but out of self interest.  They have worked out a few years back that consumers have a pain threshold. When cauliflower prices go beyond $3.99 per head retail, consumers pull the hand break.  Tomatoes at $20 is pipe dream territory of unheard proportions.  Food & Grocery Council CEO Katherine Rich also has a thing or three to learn about the fresh produce value chain, judging by her comments in the NZ Herald story.  Of course, the produce will be fresher at a farmers market – if it has been locally grown and is being sold by the grower himself.  And of course, supermarkets are subject to greater controls and attempt to offer produce of greater uniformity.  And where do we think the produce supermarkets does not buy disappears to, hm? Whilst it is great that we as a society are focusing back on the basics, i.e., the quality and availability of our food and its price, there is a lot of nonsense being talked out there and the sooner that changes the better.

Here We Go Again – Only It Is Apples This Time

I did not think I would end up writing that soon again about what is the Holy Grail  to some and an abomination for others – regulated marketing!  But as the New Zealand apple industry is trying to come to grips with the opportunities and threats represented by gaining access to the lucrative Australian market, the regulated marketing concept is getting another outing.  And rightly so, if for no other reason but to ensure that the industry has looked at all the options open to it.  As it stands, the debate on the matter is going on right now as I write this, today,  at the Pipfruit Meeting  in Hastings.

What is the core issue?

Well, when  apple marketing was deregulated in the late nineties the New Zealand pipfruit industry was shaken to its core, pardon the pun, and there exists a more or less general agreement that we stuffed up had not thought the issues entirely through and acted prematurely.  The since reconstituted, changed and slimmed down pipfruit industry which is earning no where near the margins it did under regulation is within reach of the biggest prize denied for close to a century – market access into Australia.  Naturally those of us who have learned from our actions and are also able to observe the fortunes of our friends, the kiwifruit growers, would like to see an orderly approach to entering the Australian market rather than a stampede akin to the “Running with the Bulls’ festival in Pamplona, which is a real possibility.  The smart money amongst the apple growing fraternity is trying to gain government support for creating order by way of manouvering Australian apple exports into HEA jurisdiction.  The excitable element of the industry, the element who are natural salesmen, be that of apples or second hand cars, do not want a bar of this. I do sincerely hope that common sense will prevail.  We need to go to Australia in a coordinated and strategic fashion.  Loose cannons need to get to the back of the queue and let wiser heads prevail.

A tricky one, though.  A free market government that nevertheless supports the kiwifruit regulations and faces an election in three months time.  An authority, HEA, who is all sorts of things but NOT a regulator in the way apple growers might think or like.  Australian growers who would love nothing better than see us shoot ourselves in the foot.  And Australian corporate retailers ready to pounce.

By the way, let us not for even one minute assume that Australian growers have rolled over and are playing dead.  On the contrary, here is a submission by one Australian orcharding family which considers itself under threat from our apples.



Lost in Translation – Part 2

Some errors of translation are just that – errors – and the translation effort was done with the best of intentions in the first place.

Some, not so much:

Support the Team

Being of German origin, I do know some soccer teams and Borussia I definitely know about.  So I had to look twice at this long distance supporter to realise that the shirt was a clever rip off.  Admittedly the colour was a big giveaway, but can you see the other, careful error?

That is a “P”, not the “D” that it should be for Dortmund.

A carefully designed, deliberate mistake to get around copyright laws; no good intentions here.  Not the first example of such practices and far from the last – as Zespri well knows.

In a Chinese Supermarket – Part 1


Bananas pop up the world over.

Pictured here are locally grown Chinese ones.  The red tape prevents the customer from splitting the hands to suit themselves, leaving those single bananas that are the bane of a Produce Manager’s life.

I did not wait around to see if the display would be replenished as it needed to be…

Behind the bananas was this “bin” of nectarines.


I was intrigued to note the wide size range and the presence of foliage.  This suggests to me mechanical harvesting and minimal grading.

One could also say the condition of the leaves is an indicator of the freshness of the fruit.


These apples are a local variety – quite a pretty pink en masse like this.

To put things into perspective, that price equates to 87 NZ cents!  Overall, I found China to be relatively cheap.

Moving on, the deli counters were right next door to the produce department:



No, I have not strayed into the pet store.  Yes, those are live turtles and frogs.  How else could you be sure that they were fresh?


The bulk foods area was also near the produce and displayed in a fashion far more open than I am used to seeing back in NZ supermarkets.

Then I went past the shellfish counter…



Being kept waiting at the checkout can be the last straw for a busy shopper.


This blue line is the solution:  if there are customers behind this line of blue tiles, then more checkouts are opened – immediately.

Now, here is something I often say should still be seen in NZ supermarkets: the fresh produce weigh station.


Discerning shoppers the world over choose their fruit by look and feel.


 This also could be any supermarket in the world:



Signage varies around the store and I noticed that some nutritional information is starting to appear.