$50 weekly savings at produce stores: study

Brenda Mcewing looks at the fruit and vegetables on display at Veggie Boys in Cumberland St,...
Brenda Mcewing looks at the fruit and vegetables on display at Veggie Boys in Cumberland St, Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Savings of almost $50 a week can be made if families buy their fruit and vegetables from stores other than supermarkets.

Research by the University of Otago showed a family of four could buy an ''ideal'' weekly shopping basket of fruit and vegetables for $76 at specialist fruit and vegetable stores, while at supermarkets the same basket would cost $125.

The research, produced by the university's Wellington campus, studied prices in Wellington and Christchurch.

However, similar results were expected in other New Zealand cities, researcher Dr Amber Pearson, of the university's department of public health, said.

''What we found is that fruit and vegetable markets are the cheapest option [in urban areas],'' she said.

''The next cheapest was the online supermarket.''

Farmers markets were the most expensive option but some items, such as cauliflower, spinach and cucumbers, were cheaper than they were at supermarkets, she said.

Veggie Boys owner Barry Gazeley said the results of the research were unsurprising.

The difference in margins between independent stores and supermarkets might account for some of the price difference, he said.

A Countdown spokeswoman said those at the supermarket chain had not had a chance to review the research data.

However, the price of fruit and vegetables at the supermarket chain had remained static ''on average'' for the past year.

''As with any product, price is driven by many factors, mostly supply and demand, the export market, and for produce particularly, seasonality and growing conditions,'' the spokeswoman said, when asked why prices differed between fruit and vegetable retailers and supermarkets.

Foodstuffs New Zealand group communications director Antoinette Shallue said while fruit and vegetable specialists might be cheaper, the quality and age of the product was often ''not comparable to that found in our stores''.

The supermarket chain's prices were ''essentially ... determined by supply versus demand'', she said.

Independent retailer customer Brenda Mcewing, of Dunedin, said she bought her produce at stores other than supermarkets because the ''price and quality is good''.

Although price was the main driver, she had grown up on a farm and liked her produce to resemble that which she ate as a child, she said.


The numbers

Weekly costs of feeding a family of four the ''ideal'' basket of fruit and vegetables. -

Specialist fruit and vegetable retailers: $76

Online supermarkets: $113

Supermarkets: $125

Farmers markets: $138



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