Canstar Blue’s 2021 supermarket review compares ALDI, Woolworths, Coles and IGA on their product variety, freshness of produce and meat, quality of private label products, customer service, store layout and presentation, deals and specials available, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Australia’s biggest supermarkets have moved away from simply fighting it out over the lowest prices, with an increasing focus being placed on ‘value’ and the overall customer experience – not to mention miniature toys for every $30 you spend on groceries! Coles and Woolworths have made their respective “Down Down” and “Cheap Cheap” slogans far less prominent in recent years, while ALDI continues to differentiate itself on price, but at the same time promotes its products as being ‘Good Different’.
‘Good’ is certainly the supermarket buzzword of the day, but which chain really has the happiest shoppers when quality and customer service are just as important as cost for Aussies in times of uncertainty? Competitive prices remain a big factor in determining where Australians shop. But consumers can also see the benefit of paying a little extra for quality when it comes to their favourite products in particular. Of course, the added bonus of mini collectables also helps get us spending a little more!
In Canstar Blue’s latest supermarket review, we asked more than 2,600 shoppers for their honest opinions and experiences of buying groceries from a retail supermarket in the last month. Respondents rated supermarkets on product freshness, quality of private label products, variety of products, store layout, customer service, special deals available, value for money and overall satisfaction. Supermarket chains that received the minimum sample size of 30 responses are featured in our results.
This year’s results show ALDI is still cashing in as the best-rated supermarket for four years running, bagging its eighth win since Canstar Blue launched its supermarket ratings 10 years ago! ALDI placed best with five-star reviews for the majority of research categories ─ including overall satisfaction!
Here are the best supermarkets in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s 2021 review:
ALDI keeps its title as a top-shelf supermarket, after becoming the best-rated retailer for the fourth year in a row. ALDI bagged the only five-star review for overall satisfaction. Major supermarket rivals Woolworths and Coles scored four stars overall, while IGA got three stars for overall satisfaction. However, IGA was rated best for its customer service and accessibility of staff. Woolworths also nabbed a five-star review for product variety.
With plenty of options available when it comes to getting your grocery shopping done, sticking to the same supermarket chain may have its perks. Our recent survey shows a third of Aussies (30%) do all their shopping with the same supermarket chain. Here are the top reasons they mentioned for their supermarket loyalty:
Fewer Aussies also said they could save money by shopping elsewhere (18%, down from 24%), while 9% ended up switching to a different supermarket within the last year. These are the main reasons why some shoppers made the change:
With the supermarkets introducing their own products into almost every aisle, the grocery shop often becomes a choice between supermarket-owned and branded products. Nearly half of survey respondents (48%) think supermarket private label products are good quality, while 27% said they tend to buy private labels rather than big brands.
While supermarket chains attempt to equal out the playing field with tactics like miniature toys and limited-time special deals, only 17% of respondents said the costs of basics such as milk and bread determined where they shop. It also seems customers are still showing a fair amount of willpower in supermarket aisles, with 36% admitting to making impulse purchases (similar to 35% last year, and 37% in 2019, down from 58% in 2018).
Our latest survey also shows the average weekly amount Aussies fork out at the supermarket has increased to $153, from $140 previously.
Grocery shopping can be a struggle at times, particularly if you have kids in tow, or you’re rushing to grab something quick for dinner. We asked survey respondents for their biggest pet peeves when the weekly grocery shop comes around, with the biggest issues for shoppers being:
Despite the lengthy list of gripes, 18% said they have no supermarket frustrations.
Supermarkets have been a huge talking point for Aussies since the start of COVID-19, especially with stores forced to enforce strict purchase limits to help manage stock levels and reduce panic buying of essentials like toilet paper. Overall, nearly half of shoppers we surveyed (54%) said they witnessed panic buying at their local store, and 46% said their supermarket also ran out of items they needed during the pandemic.
For the first time, we measured consumers’ satisfaction with their supermarket’s response to COVID-19 and more people were satisfied with IGA in that aspect than any other supermarket (69%). It also seems the majority of Aussies are generally happy with how the major supermarkets are responding to the pandemic (61%). Consumers also said their store implemented adequate cleaning protocols (58%) and that staff followed all COVID-19 requirements, such as social distancing and wearing masks (65%).
Supermarket chains are now becoming more environmentally conscious, opting for recyclable bags instead of plastic bags at the checkout. However, nearly one in four people (23%) still forget to bring their own bag. Another 42% of shoppers said they would also like to see supermarkets do more to reduce plastic in other areas, such as food packaging. Some retailers have also made mini collectables more eco-friendly, using reusable materials and adding recycling bins in stores.
German grocery giant ALDI has again claimed the top spot in our supermarket ratings. While ALDI doesn’t have the same number of stores as Coles and Woolworths, it’s fighting back against the duopoly with often lower prices, with its own brands offering real competition against the major brands stocked by other supermarkets. ALDI also offers something different with its ‘Special Buys’, one-off or seasonal products ranging from specialty foods to snow gear and luxury skin creams.
Often referred to as ‘Woolies’, Woolworths has around 1,000 locations around Australia, with its parent company – Woolworths Group Limited – also including Dan Murphy’s and Big W, in addition to a number of other smaller businesses. Similar to main rival Coles, the ‘Fresh Food People’ at Woolworths have also ventured into the online market, offering an online grocery experience for time-pressed shoppers, as well as offering the Click & Collect pickup or home delivery service.
One of Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains, Coles now stands as a publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange, having previously been owned by the Wesfarmers Group, which now holds a 15% share in the business. Coles has more than 800 stores across Australia, meaning you’ll likely come across one on your travels. In addition to physical stores, Coles also offers online grocery shopping with the choice of Click & Collect or home delivery, ideal for when you’re run off your feet. And if you’re a fan of discounts, Coles also launched its Best Buys seasonal sale which offers new deals every fortnight. Coles’ Best Buys have previously featured goodies like weighted blankets, Bluetooth soundbars and headphones.
The Independent Grocers of Australia works by utilising group purchasing and marketing, while store management and ownership stay independent. More and more solo shops are joining the IGA name, which currently has more than 1,400 locations across Australia, from small corner shops to sprawling supermarkets. Many IGA shops also carry more local brands, speciality products, or imports for some variety in your usual supermarket stock.
This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Photo credit: anystock/shutterstock.com, Kaspars Grinvalds/shutterstock.com, garetsworkshop/shutterstock.com, Victor Wong/Shutterstock.com, Catrin Haze/Shutterstock.com, Douglas Cliff / Shutterstock.com.
Canstar Blue surveyed more than 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have made a purchase from a retail supermarket in the last month – in this case, 2,624 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
Here are the previous winners of Canstar Blue’s supermarket ratings:
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