The peak industry body representing the nation’s $125 billion food and grocery manufacturers has turned to a former executive of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to be its next chief executive at a time when supermarkets are once again ratcheting up pressure on suppliers to cut prices.
Tanya Barden has been named the new CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, commencing her role on July 3, with the appointment reflecting an internal appointment as Ms Barden is currently the group’s director of economics and sustainability.
However, she also has a strong background in the competition and energy sector having worked in various roles at the ACCC and subsequent to that working for energy retailer ActewAGL. She has also ran her own online food business.
Ms Barden’s experience at the ACCC could prove particularly useful given the recent uptick in noise from the nation’s second biggest supermarket chain, Coles, around the high prices charged for local food products compared to international pricing.
For years Coles and Woolworths have been locked in a price battle with suppliers, with the supermarket chains squeezing suppliers to then in turn offer lower prices at the supermarket checkout as the leading chains engage in a protracted price war to win over shoppers.
In the last few weeks, Coles has been vocal on what it sees as food suppliers treating Australia like a “Treasure Island” where they can command higher wholesale prices for brands than what they charge overseas.
Last week at Wesfarmers strategy day, Coles boss John Durkan raised the issue, referring to the “crazy prices” being charged in Australia.
“It’s already an overpriced grocery market in my view and I’ve been saying that for nine years … I still look at products here that are made overseas and they are crazy prices. We need to bring those prices down.”
Last month, Coles merchandise director Chris Nicholas took the message right into the lion’s den, addressing the AFGC conference he said that in some supermarket product categories prices in Australia were as much as 50 per cent higher than in Europe.
Ms Barden will confront these claims when she starts next month, with the intense competition in the supermarket sector showing no signs of easing in the near term and in fact growing even more pressured.
She replaces acting AFGC CEO Geoffrey Annison.
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