What the papers had to say about the Weet-Bix saga

by | Oct 5, 2023 | Opinion

As the wheat dust settles at the bottom of the box in Aotearoa’s latest breakfast-based battle for the soul of the nation, we here at The Feed have cast our eyes over the media landscape and asked ourselves and our friends on news desks across the country: “what was that all about?”.

Stuff talked to University of Canterbury researcher and fellow Dr Michael Gousmett, who said what we were all thinking: that Sanitarium’s decision to cut off supply of Weet-Bix to the Warehouse (by far the cheapest retailer) was “appalling”. Gousmett went on to say:

“This is Sanitarium throwing their weight around, there’s no doubt about that. Whether the other big players in the market are involved is a moot point, and that’s where the Commerce Commission needs to step in to see if there is collusion.

Stuff’s big basket of stuff

“There is so much talk about the cost of living, and here you have a Christian charity that is exploiting its power and authority to remove supply of a basic food product to people at a price they can afford.”

Pretty salty stuff. And it does leave us (and Stuff’s daily podcast Newsable) wondering why Sanitarium is still not paying any tax on its enormous profits due to its charitable status. They don’t seem to have the best interests of hard-up Kiwis at heart, and let’s not forget their backwards and offensive position on homosexuality.

Stuff had more to say on the matter. They quoted Grocery Commissioner Pierre van Heerden, who said the announcement that Sanitarium had backed down and agreed to supply The Warehouse was “a real win for Kiwi consumers”. He went on to say that it was encouraging to see suppliers and retailers “work through these kinds of issues” and that the whole debacle was the hallmark of “a well-functioning market.”

We would like to put in a bulk order for whatever that guy is smoking.

Later in the same article, Stuff quoted the, by comparison reasonably sober, Commerce and Consumer Affairs minister Duncan Webb.

Dr Dunkin’ Webb

He said that Sanitarium’s behaviour showed why “existing players cannot be trusted to sort the market out.” He went on:

“[Sanitarium] refused to supply Weet-Bix to the retailer selling it cheapest – grocery challenger The Warehouse – citing supply shortages. Those claimed shortages don’t appear to be affecting supplies to the big supermarkets”.

In a piece about Sanitarium’s climb-down, The Herald quoted Sanitarium’s general manager Michael Barton at length. He said things like:

“We apologise for any concern created for our loyal consumers.”

And:

“We have tried in that time to prioritise allocation of Weet-Bix to service all our customers, including New Zealand’s grocery, non-grocery, hospitality and export markets”.

And:

“Our view is clear that no breach of the Commerce Act has occurred. The industry process of stock allocation when supply is constrained is complex.”

Sure, Michael.

Newshub went with Labour’s announcement in the wake of the wheat-based controversy that it would continue to try to bring the supermarket duopoly under control. The party announced on Monday it would support new grocery retailers trying to break through in the New Zealand market by providing financing, making regulatory changes or making land available.

We’ll be watching this story to see what the Commerce Commission has to say about this in the fullness of time. Was the duopoly involved? Do ya think?

In the meantime we’ll be scouring the woods for bear poop, and the pope’s digs for crucifixes.

 

 

About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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