25 Mar 2014

The myth of supermarket choice

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I was in a supermarket the other day. I know, it’s a terrible thing to confess to, but there I was, looking at the bread shelves. Lots of different brands of white sliced bread, and brown sliced bread, and a couple of novelty varieties. A huge array of bread, but once you get past the branding, most of it nearly identical to the other ‘choices’.

We’ve been sold the myth that supermarkets offer us choice. However, go and look at the selection and you will see there are a lot of very similar products offered by different brands. The choice is merely between makers, not between products. One plastic pre-sliced loaf is barely distinguishable from another once you take the labels off. Crisps and cleaning products, sauces and sausages – the choice between items is largely an illusion brought on by brightly coloured packaging.

I went into one of our lovely local bakers this week. There were a range of different kinds of breads and different loaf sizes. In no more space than the supermarket bread isle offers, they had far more diversity of product. Sure, it all came from the same producer, but if the producer is good, this is no great problem. I went round to the market and looked at bread sellers there, who with a fraction of the supermarket space offer easily twice as much range.

We’ve been conned into thinking that brands mean choice, and that supermarkets full of brands offer us a real range of products. As a vegetarian looking for a pie, I’m much better off in the local wholefood shop than in a supermarket, where my choice is cheese and onion, or someone else’s cheese and onion. It’ll taste exactly the same as it did last time, because in mass production ‘quality’ is just a measure of sameness, not of actual quality. 

If you're concerned about the supermarkets do visit Stroud Against Supermarket Saturation

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well you can read the ingredients label of supermarket sliced bread...I have read about lard being used in small bakeries.

Warburtons and Braces are very good sliced breads; better than some of the others, and you can see that they are vegetarian.

Too many supermarkets competing against each other will lead to a lowering in quality, I think though, as they try to compete with each other for price; but I think, in the end the price will be the same, just that we will have poor quality products.