Cost or Quality? A question to consumers.

Frozen raspberries & blue berries

‘Where does my food come from?’

A question that is no doubt important, but one that may not be thought about as often as it should be.

For many people, a trip to the supermarket means it’s time to stock up on essential items that are running low. Purchases such as these don’t usually involve much effort or thought. For many, the cheapest and most cost-efficient option is the one selected, but should we be putting more effort into understanding where the food we buy and eat comes from, rather than just the cost? How often do we check the country of origin labels on the packaged food we buy at the supermarket? Should we try to understand more clearly, or just trust that what we’re buying is safe?

These questions came to the forefront of many people’s minds when the news broke that a common household item, frozen berries, was leading to cases of Hepatitis A across Australia. As a result Nanna’s frozen mixed berries and raspberries were recalled and taken off supermarket shelves, but that was just the beginning.

When the news broke, it caused an immediate ripple of questions.

“How safe is our food?”

“Will I get sick?”

“What brands can we trust?”

I, for one, became immediately concerned, as I frequently used Nanna’s raspberries in smoothies and, just the day before hearing the news, had bought a new packet to replenish my ever-dwindling supply. Nanna’s has always been my first choice brand, largely due to bag size and price.

Like many others, I didn’t know that Nanna’s, a branch of the Australia food manufacturing company, Patties Foods, imported all of their berries. This is largely due to the ambiguity or lack of visibility regarding “made in”, “packed in” or “imported from” disclaimers. The vagueness of such labels can be misleading and confusing to many who don’t understand what they mean, or to those who don’t even look for the information in the first place. We must now ask, is it time to make a decision on how to regulate these labels? How clear should they be? Where should they be? And how specific must they be so that we don’t get caught out again?

An outcome of the event is the questioning of imported products. Are they better than the alternative of more expensive local products? Should we sacrifice quality for money? How likely we likely to pass up a great bargain in favour of knowledge about exactly where our food is produced, treated and packed?

Off the back of the scare, Australian family-owned company of Rebello Wines and Cheeky Rascal Cider have decided to take the leap and expand their berry farm, Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, to create Australia’s first commercial frozen berry brand, Matilda’s Frozen Fruit.

According to reports, Matilda’s will be available in supermarkets by June at an elevated cost to consumers. The lack of hygiene standards in the countries that produce many of our frozen foods is a factor that led to the scare and by choosing brands like Matilda’s the uncertainty about health, safety and quality is removed. So it’s time to make a decision – what’s more important: peace of mind about the quality of our food or saving a few dollars?

To consumers, the knowledge about that what they are eating and what they’re feeding to their kids may provide comfort about the safety, health, and quality of their food, which may greatly outweigh the additional cost that will be incurred by buying locally grown and packed food. As SBS reports, for some consumers this is indeed the case.

It’s time to make some decisions – should more commercial Australian products be available in our supermarkets? And will we be willing to pay a bit extra for peace of mind about the safety and quality of our food?

One thing is for sure, I will definitely be thinking more closely about where my food is coming from before deciding which option to choose, and worrying less about cost and more about the healthiness of what I’m eating.

What about you?


10 thoughts on “Cost or Quality? A question to consumers.

  1. I agree with your post. We need to be concious of what we are buying and asking those tough questions, was this imported? how safe is it or should I just trust it because it’s in Australia and on the shelf. Then again just because it’s locally made does not make it safe either. With a name like Nanna’s rasberries you automatically associate “Nanna” with love and care. I think what is important here is brand awareness and being aware of what is going on around the world, today we need to educate ourselves (read the finer details). What is re-assuring for me is that in this case, the product was recalled/removed, I wonder how many other things we’ve eaten that went undetected. Anyone for fish tonight?


  2. It is difficult to understand the food labels. Not many consumers would know the different between foods labelled “Product of Australia” versus “Grown in Australia”. I have long been pro-Buy Australian and I probably know more than the average person when it comes to reading food labels, having worked in the industry. Even so I still find it confusing. But I am paying more attention to the “Grown in Australia” since the frozen berries scare. Just the other week I was purchasing fresh fruit – nectarines – and there was a choice between those labelled “Product of Australia” and those that were “Grown in Australia”. Needless to say I chose the latter. If I understand the labeling correctly – “Product of Australia” means they have put those annoying little sticky labels on each piece of fruit. It is time the government made a move to make the labeling of food clearer for everyone – of course those in the food industry probably don’t agree.

    On the other hand – we the consumers can have a significant impact on how products are marketed and even made. Maybe the “drive” for a change in food lableing really needs to come from us. As a mother of a child with a food intolerance to artificial food colours, I have seen an significant shift in the market over the last 10 years for products to be manufactured and clearly labeled “No Artificial Food Colours” – why – because we the consumers wanted those products without artificial food colouring. Maybe us consumers have more power than we think?


  3. I completely agree with this blog. How are shoppers to know where and how a product is made and whether it is safe? Although products are required by law to not have false, misleading or deceptive representations (Food Standards Australia, 2013), who or what body actually regulates the labels for vagueness? Not to say, consumers are also affected by clever marketing, attracted to low prices or catchy phrases. There needs to be stronger intervention of misleading communications and stricter quality regulation from the government.

    Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, 2013, ‘Labelling’, retrieved 26 March, 2015, .


  4. A very important issue right now for many Australian consumers. As a consumer, I certainly would be happy to pay additional for a quality Australian product. But how do we truly know if the product is 100% Australian? Brands can promote their products as “Australian” but components of the product may be made overseas to keep costs down. We will need to have stricter labeling laws from the Government before we see any real changes come through.


  5. A great blog lucinda. It brings up a number of relevant & important points about Food Safety Standards & Food labelling, and how governments always seem to be out of step with the people they supposedly represent. Consumers want to know more now than they did years ago.
    Consumer expectations have undergone a massive shift. When I was a child you only got fruit & vegetables that were in season & there were tinned & few frozen alternatives available the rest of the year. This was reflected in our backyard veggie garden, our crops were seasonal. Is it consumer demand & expectation that has companies purchasing & importing items from overseas, either fresh or frozen? Are we really prepared to pay a premium price so that we can have something all year round? And at what cost, given we don’t know what we’re really getting & the uneven playing field in terms of trade agreements & how that affects primary procuders in Australia. Processing & storage of fruit & vegetables has changed over the years to. Do you really know how “fresh” it is & what of the nutiritional content?
    And Raymond, I thought it was chicken tonight?


  6. Food safty problem and recalls are happened frequently in lots of countries including Australia.
    When we get the lower price, great chioce of food with the great globalization of the world economic, the problem comes as well. World Health Organization (WHO) found complex food chain increases food safety risks. For me, I am a mum, of course I always take healthy safty,high quality as the first priority for my child, even it is costly.


  7. I like especially the title question: Cost or Quality? I believe that as consumers we are obsessed with low-cost or even now, after the lecture and reading a couple blogs about consumer behaviour, I don´t know if we decided to be obsessed with low-cost or if are marketers the ones who have driven us up to this point. Do you think that low-cost is a strategy designed for big multinational enterprises in order to play in a better position where they can be more competitive with scale-economy production? I believe we are also influenced to buy low-cost products automatically without thinking what it has to be done in the process to be able to get that attractive price.

    What it happens to consumers and the way we get affected is only one side of the problem. However, have you think about what happened in the process before products can reach the shelves? What are we buying behind a cheap product? Perhaps, slavering work systems or children being forced to work? We also need to reflect about that! In order to avoid this, I recommend to all: when the price is ridiculously low, don´t buy it because there is a high chance that someone had suffered in the process.


  8. The trade-off between cost and quality is pervasive in all industries, not just the food products. Do consumers buy cheap alternatives which are imported from countries with lax hygiene regulations or do they purchase more expensive products whose safety is guaranteed?

    Cheap food products might save costs for consumers in the short run but if they lead to disease and poor health, which cost money to treat. Australian is a first world country and very few if any people would struggle to buy something as basic as food.

    It seems a lot better to purchase the more expensive (more hygienic) food than to risk the health of the public. So is the cheap imported food worth the price that consumers might pay in terms of their health? I highly doubt it.


  9. Your article has really grabbed my attention. First of all I am thanking you for educating us in such a serious issue. Yes, for me its a serious issue because health always comes first. I am still shocked to read about the incident happened to that family for frozen berries. I am such a consumer that will always consider quality more important than price. I always prefer australian grown products more than anything, but if I don’t get any of such products then I have to select from the remaining ones. But, from now I am going to be more concerned about my food especially.


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