Bread wars

The two major supermarket chains are battling each other with $1 loaves of bread.  Queue the whiners…

One-dollar loaves of bread are flying off the shelves in the millions – but a bakers’ union says Kiwis’ love of a cheap deal could put jobs at risk.

Fierce competition between the country’s two main supermarket owners saw the price of bread drop to just $1 earlier this year.

As supermarkets indicate such pricing will continue, the Bakers and Pastrycooks’ Union has sounded the alarm about an industry “under siege”.

Secretary Norm Holley told the Herald that brands in the middle-to-upper price bracket were not selling as a result of the $1 deals.

As a result the country’s two biggest bakers had been cornered into a position where jobs could eventually be lost, he said.

However, Countdown says its $1 Homebrand breads are here to stay “for as long as possible”, and price drops on other brands have increased bread sales overall.

Mr Holley represents about 350-400 workers at the North Island bread plants of Goodman Fielder and George Weston Foods (Tip Top bakeries).

The two competitors are by far the biggest suppliers and between them produce dozens of bread brands as well as the $1 brands such as Budget and Homebrand.

As a rule of thumb, when a union complains, something good is going on.  

In this case, there isn’t actually a reduction in bread being produced.  In fact, the reverse is happening:  people are eating more bread because it is cheap.

So what we really have here is a union whining about some companies facing job cuts because their loaves are too expensive, while the company that produces the cheaper loaves are going gang busters.

And the Union wants to put a stop to that.  They want, somehow, to protect the workers are a company that is selling less desirable bread.

Asked why the two big bakeries supplied the cheap bread if it was so detrimental to business, Mr Holley said supermarkets were big customers.

“Each [company] is looking at the other one and thinking, if we don’t supply … you’re going to get all the bread [sales in supermarkets].”

However, Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said it had worked closely with Goodman Fielder to put together the $1 Homebrand white and wheatmeal bread deal.

“We’ve sold over five million loaves at this new price and customers really like this better value.”

Ms Porter said prices on Freyas, Tip Top, Signature Range and in-store baked breads had dropped, which had “reinvigorated interest in bread” and increased overall sales.

Countdown, which is owned by Progressive Enterprises, said its $1 bread was not a “loss leader” but a new everyday price.

If we were to compare this to some other product, let’s say wine, then we would have producers that sell bottles at $30 each complaining about supermarkets selling bottles at $4.99 and then wanting something done about it.

The answer is not the union way.  The answer is for the more expensive brands to start justifying the value in their breads.  $3.90 a loaf versus $1.00.  Where does the other $2.90 go?  If it goes into the bread factory’s bank account, then I don’t think consumers are going to care.  But if it goes into their Low GI, high in fiber, extra healthy diet, then people will put money towards it.

Doesn’t stop union stooges from wanting price controls on bread mind you.  These are the same people that are backing the Labour party.  State interference in everything.

If it was up to them, there would probably one state sanctioned loaf of bread at a set price that everyone has to pay while the bakers are on $90,000 a year with 8 weeks annual leave.

How far does your loyalty to a particular load of bread go?  At $1 a loaf, will you switch?


– Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald


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  • Builder

    It makes me wonder what’s in it or left out of it to be so cheap. If its still good quality bread and not harmful to health then why not go for it.

  • Graham

    I’ve tried their cheap bread. Quality is OK if used immediately but goes stale extremely quickly. More expensive brands much better quality and keeping ability but I don’t know how the really expensive ones can justify the price. I stick with the middle of the road $1.99 loaves which stay fresh longer and freeze well.

    • Second time around

      Going stale is really just the cooked flour firming up- it’s reversible if you put it in the microwave. There was talk of adding calcium propionate as an inhibitor so that supermarkets could extend the shelf life of the bread and save having to make daily deliveries. It’s been used for decades in the US, although apart from the sough dough and the rye, I am no fan of American bread.

  • ex-JAFA

    Unless I’m after a speciality loaf for a specific use, I always buy the cheapest going – so I’ve been buying Homebrand since well before it was reduced to $1. Never had a problem of any kind with it – bread’s bread, as far as I’m concerned. Besides, I keep it frozen and only take out the slices I need at the time.

  • Mark

    Well I am back to my $2 Rivermill White Super thick Toast,you know like Toast bread used to be before it slimmed down to sandwich size. That is why I don’t buy the Homebrand.
    I briefly flirted with Ciabatta,having tried it at a friends. For a while there I was happy at Countdown,buying 2/$3,then 2/$7 then they made it $4 a loaf then $4.25,I bailed at $4,that’s really pushing your luck CD! So because you had a product I liked I was willing to pay twice my usual price,but surprise surprise you blew it.

  • Aucky

    And what if labour was in power with Angry Andy in charge? Cheap bread for the masses can only be provided by subsidies garnered from the rich pricks. God forbid that the same end can be achieved by competitive process.

  • Chris EM

    I’ve switched to the cheap bread, not supermarket stuff, though. It lives in the freezer until needed. Molenberg used to be my favourite, but it really started bugging me as the price went up and up. Just no excuse to be that price.

    • Aucky

      Way to go Chris. I never pay more than $3.50 for my Vogels. We are lucky with both Countdown & Pak n Save being equidistant and one other usually has it at two for $7. The freezer is stocked for the weeks when specials aren’t on.

      • Chris EM

        I used to do the same with New World and Countdown, both being equidistant for me. However, now Couplands are baking bread just around the corner from Countdown. $1 loaves are nicer than supermarket ones, and they have a $2.50 one which is every bit as nice as Molenberg. Think I prefer it, actually.

        • mommadog

          Are you in Hamilton? If so may have passed you in Couplands. Its my favourite. I even take my Mum there now. She doesn’t drive and is on a pension. She stocks up on a months worth (loaf a week unless she has visitors) by keeping it in the freezer and is rapt at the price. Like you she also thinks their $1 bread is much nicer than the supermarket variety. By selling their own Couplands cut out the middle man so can probably control the price a little more. Hence nicer bread (better ingredient quality) for the same price.

          • Chris EM

            Yes I am, mommadog. Silly thing is I’ve driven past it for months, never went in. Glad I did.

        • Rick H

          Couplands is great.
          Here in Timaru, are two Couplands stores within 5 minutes drive, or even ride on bicycle.
          They have some very reasonably priced, yet rather nice products; and you have the choice of the cheapest basics, or slightly more expensive higher end stuff.
          We buy from them on a weekly basis.

          • Skydog

            Couplands, Southern Grains, two loaves for $5, you can’t beat that for quality and price.

            I say, if it wasn’t for Couplands 99 cent loaves the war would have never started.

          • Chris EM

            Yep, Southern Grains, my new favourite.

          • Chris EM

            I’ve only bought their bread, are their other products just as nice?

  • Sally

    When we were a family household and things were tight I would have searched out the cheapest. Now that there is only 2 of us and not big bread eaters we tend to buy the more expensive brands such as vogels. This is because the quality is so much better. One loaf of vogels can last a fortnight if we store it in the freezer.
    Now that bread is only $1 a loaf there is no excuse from even the poorest families to provide breakfast for the children.

    • Aucky

      Egg on toast for 50 cents. Same for baked beans. No excuses Sally.

  • Reaper

    I make my own. Sourdough. I haven’t really priced it but it might cost me around 30 cents, much less if I can be bothered to grind my own wheat (mind you, the grinder wasn’t cheap). It makes the house smell nice in the morning.

    • RAS

      Sounds good but it’s only really 30 cents if your time is worth zero.

      • Reaper

        It takes less than 5 minutes per day, but as I do not have a paying job then I guess my time is worth zero :(

      • metalnwood

        Making bread usually isn’t about saving money, it’s for the satisfaction as much as anything else. Like any hobby, value of your time isn’t placed on it.

        • RAS

          Fair enough you two. I was talking about the price of the bread without acknowledging its value.

    • metalnwood

      I didnt bother thinking about making my own flour as it seemed good quality ingredients to mill cost a lot more than buying a good quality flour.

      • Reaper

        Flour starts to lose its nutritional content within 20 minutes of being milled. Freshly milled flour makes a huge difference.

        • metalnwood

          yes but bread isn’t really up the top of the nutritional value tree. :) I love bread and eat it knowing it’s not really the most healthy thing but it’s not going to kill me :)

    • Wheninrome

      Home made sourdough, starter in the fridge leads to all sorts of wonderful yeasty items, i.e. sourdough pizza, focaccia, pita bread, andof course wonderful grain, pumpkin seed etc., sourdough bread. No knead, stir a few times during a couple of hours, put in loaf tin, leave in fridge 1 – 2 days , leave out over night and ready to bake in morning, all nicely risen.
      Equivalent to $10.00 loaf artisan bread for maybe max $1.50 probably less.

  • Brian of Mt Wellington

    I wonder if some of these parents who can’t feed their kids and rely on schools to do it will still complain that they can’t afford bread for kids lunches.

    • mommadog

      Just posted a similar comment before reading yours. I think the problem is the expectations of kids. I went to school with a marmite and cheese sandwich and a piece of home made chocolate cake if Mum had baked. I still like marmite and cheese sandwiches and I’m in my early 50’s. Kids today (or their parents) seem to think they need sushi, wraps and whatever expensive fillings there are.

  • CheesyEarWax

    At $1 it must be a loss making product for the supermarkets. The product is priced to get punters through the door. The baker’s union shouldn’t be complaining as most these loaves are produced by machines, not the bakers.

    • Platinum Fox

      I haven’t been inside a modern commercial bakery so I don’t have any understanding of what an industrial baker does these days. If, as you say, those loaves are machine made then the union’s concern will be that the product mix will move further towards products which can only be produced through more automation and fewer people.

      • dgrogan

        It’s all been well automated for decades. I had a part-time second job in a Tip Top bakery back in the 70’s. Apart from weighing ingredients, filling mixers and manually removing baking tin racks from the ovens, pretty much everything else was automated.

        • Platinum Fox

          It sounds as if there won’t be many opportunities for further automation to drive down costs then? Odd that the union cares what the product is sold for if the labour cost is already minimised.

  • I’m Right

    I buy a Cpl loafs a fortnight and alternate between Freyas and Ploughmans (both multi grain) and freeze them. Those $1 loaves are very thin and good if you have a few kids and/or on a budget….i’m in neither of those so stick with the good bread.

  • Captain Darling

    I buy Vogels as my breakfast bread, I wont eat anything else. But I’m happy to buy the cheap breads for sandwiches, why not, sure beats $3.50-4.00 for other sandwich bread.

  • Mainstream Mike

    Who wants to eat “Bludger Bread”?

    No-one with any self-respect.

  • richard.b

    Question: What bread would the minimum wage workers in this union buy?
    I bet it would be the $1 loaf stuff.
    Is the union saying their workers shouldn’t watch their pennies?

    • They don’t buy their bread, they steal it off their employer

  • corey_s

    as someone who has worked in the bread industry for several years, I can say that there is no profit selling $1 bread. Ingredients on a 600g load would be about 55c, then by the time you add Labour, distribution, merchandising, packaging, and wastage, there wouldn’t even be 1c up for grabs.
    the suppliers are “encouraged” to support these prices to protect their branded offers.
    there is nothing underhand here, suppliers must adapt or die

    • LabTested

      I don’t get why there is any ‘Labour’ in bread making. Surely automation should have taken over this industry years ago.

      • dgrogan

        Absolutely right. See comment to PF below.

      • corey_s

        Well you would be wrong. It’s not Labour in the sense of kneeding etc, but there is still a lot of human input. You would be surprised at the amount of human input it takes to get the bread to your supermarket shelves.

  • oldmanNZ

    I make my own bread, the raw materials for a loaf can be less than $1.
    To make my bread extra moist, I use the Roux method, this is rather a bit more labour involved.

    sometimes I add milk powder for more protein, this can push the price up too.

    Adding grains and other bit involves a bit more labour so can push cost up.

    The $1 bread is really a basic (not very moist but ok) bread.

    • metalnwood

      I make my own bread as well, thankfully I found a supplier of decent rye, wholemeal flour etc. You have to get them in 20kg bags though!

      Anyway, I only buy the $1 breads now as they are no different IMHO to some of the more expensive ones, at least the multigrain I get, and a loaf only lasts around a day. Anything thats left from the loaf is toast the next morning so it is proving (no pun intended!) pretty good.

      • Just Mick

        The cheaper breads have less grains etc

  • The $1 White toast bread in my local countdown is usually gone by the time i get to the supermarket, so it seems to me there is a supply/demand imbalance, their members might lose their job, but i bet you the makers making the low cost bread will snap them up. Besides, try lowering your prices and compete rather than just moaning about it

  • Keanne Lawrence

    Again it is a matter of choice as well as those who like to make a show of buying the overpriced brands of loaves. The distinction is that a basic loaf of white bread is bread while the others are usually made from partly ground grain and thus fall into a category of a loaf.
    The Radio Doctor made the distinction back in the day and said white is right. At $1 a loaf it certainly must be cheap enough for some of the hungry children to enjoy as well.

  • Disinfectant

    Coupland’s have been at 99c for some time for a loaf of bread.

    • Just Mick

      yeah its thanks to Couplands that we have cheap bread not Countdown or Foodstuffs

  • mommadog

    I haven’t purchased bread from a supermarket for over a year. instead I buy directly from a local baker. They have matched the supermarket $1 a loaf for their cheaper bread but because I can, I buy the more premium. Its still less that $3 a loaf or $5 if buying two. Honestly this bread just tastes better so I would pay more for it than I do if they did put their prices up. As for tasting better, its not my imagination. I love bread, eat quite a bit of it and could happily go out to a restaurant and just have a bread platter without a main so I feel I have some experience with tasting. I was one of those kids that would get a loaf of still warm unsliced bread from the bakery on a Sunday and could eat the inside out of it. it was on a par with fish and chips out of the newspaper.
    I was given a couple of loaves of Homebrand $1 bread from Countdown a couple of months ago. There is no comparison to what I buy. It tastes like flour and water with a bit of salt – a bit bland. In saying that I am thankful that I can afford to buy the nicer bread but if I couldn’t I would eat the $1 loaves and be grateful as the filling takes away the bland. The other issue that no one has added to the argument that the Bakers Union needs to think about is that at $1 a loaf there is absolutely no excuse for kids to go to school without a lunch. So they are helping all of those families in (cough, cough) poverty. Good socialist unions should be happy about that.

    • Sally

      Remember the days being sent to get the bread from the local bakery before breakfast. It must have driven mum mad to discover a little rat had nibbled its way through the centre of the bread on the way home.
      She must of rejoiced when bread was packaged up in a plastic bags.

      • And while we’re reminiscing, do you remember Sunday bread, crisp crusts, lovely gluten rich insides … going to the dairy and nibbling the crust on the way home. For, if I remember correctly, $1 a loaf. Yummy.

    • Wheninrome

      Bread is flour and water and a bit of salt and yeast.

      • InnerCityDweller

        Only if you never had real bread, like sourdough rye or pumpernickel

  • Michael

    We buy it, but our kids go through it quickly. There is a quality difference between $1 bread and $4 bread, but at 8 and 6 they’re not going to notice.

    At $1 a loaf, with a spread of marge and jam being a few cents is there any need for in school lunches? A banana is about 30c, and a small chip bag from a ten pack is 45c so you can put together a good lunch for about $1.

    Of course, the free market providing better outcomes mustn’t be tolerated.

  • Honcho

    Economic principles are something the senior union leadership have never been able to get a grasp on. So in order to better ourselves lets look at todays economic principle, a classic marketing strategy to employ a ‘loss leader’.
    (not to be confused with little andy who is a leader of the lost)

  • dgrogan

    Excellent. The Bread is sorted. All we need now is Milk Wars, like across the Tasman

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    Why am I not seeing Helen Kelly saying this is all John Key’s fault?

    • Alfred12

      Won’t be long now SCC. Interesting hypocrisy from the unions this time! on one hand they accuse company’s of price gouging and now they are supporting higher prices for bread! I accept I’m old but is anyone else confused?

  • pisces8284 .

    I only eat bread at weekends and it’s Freyas for me, husband eats white bread at weekends so I get the $1 one for him. Shudder. It’s like eating cotton wool. If you must eat white bread at least eat a decent one

    • pisces8284 .

      Must point out that husband doesn’t care what white bread he eats

  • Caprice

    Making nearly all of the bread myself – the super market is a long way away.
    Money wise though, I get the most return from that other product requiring barley and yeast. I make a mean stout or dark ale. And it saves big on recycling as well as $.

  • Dog Breath

    Quality multigrain bread for me every time.

  • OneTrack

    Is Andy going to suggest that the price be set by regulation? Or is he more likely to suggest the industry must be nationalised – Ministry of Bread, or KiwiBread.

  • SlightlyStrange

    Wont switch at $1 a loaf. I love my molenburg too much. And as someone who is gluten sensitive (being tested for Coeliacs in the new year), bread is such a treat for me, I want something I like when I have it.

  • viking

    Oh so Norm Holley is a whining is he. That uneducated turkey hailed from Opotiki and joined the big guns like McGovern in Auckland. Used to run around the small bakeries causing trouble. My staff tossed him out as he refused to follow their rules when entering the place. Must have been a union rep for at least 38-9 years now. Used to tow the Goodman/Westons line with the aim being to remove the competition from the provinces by making small enterprises abide by the same rules as the plant bakeries.
    Pleased to boot is now on the other foot as both these outfits deserve the customers they have. Hope they both get screwed royally and Holley gets early retirement. More I could say but Whale will ban me.

  • FredFrog

    Surely $1.00 per loaf is good news for all those billions of kiwis living below the poverty line (According to the lefty trash rags)?

  • Champagneshane

    Read this from the Daily Mail and you won’t buy that industrial crap bread again

  • Bombastic

    I’ve learned something new today. I had no idea we had a Bakers and Pastrycook’s Union. I wonder though, who advocates for the ice cream makers?

    • danielnz

      Don’t give them ideas, then we’ll see the Tip Top Union complaining that Frosty Boy and Mr Whippy are selling ice creams too cheap, and the state must step in.

  • Terence Hodgson

    Must say the New World’s Budget mixed grain bread is yummy. It is frequently $1, but on off-days goes up to $1.48. Not sure about the white bread though, as I don’t do papier-mâché so I couldn’t comment! I am happy to be decried as deluded by any nutritionist who finds my choice lamentable.

  • Monito

    My birds love the $1.00 bread and I have no issues buying two loves whenever I am at the supermarket.