Same but different: How the Brits and the Aussies’ Grocery Shopping experiences vary

By Blackdog - 2 years ago


The UK and Australia are like different sides of the same coin. We share similar tastes, cultures and customs. It’s why many brands find it easy to make the move down under and why Australian shoppers so often shop UK websites.

But do we share similar attitudes when it comes to grocery shopping?

As a global retail marketing agency, we work with the leading supermarkets in both the UK and Australian markets.

So apart from our weather seasons being vastly different, what other things separate the grocery experience between continents?

With input from Sarah Andrews, MD of Blackdog Australia and Michele Callieu, Account Director on Tesco Blackdog UK we unwrap the grocery shop at home and down under.

Shopping Habits

The pandemic transformed shopping habits overnight. What happened in each market and did the changes stick?

In the UK a surge in online grocery shopping saw three-in-five consumers shop online. Many have become converts, with a fifth of households consistently ordering groceries online each month. As for the in-store experience, bigger, less frequent shops have become the norm. Customers are making 40 million fewer trips each month than in 2019.

In Australia, online grocery shopping has soared as a result of the pandemic. A third of Australians have bought groceries online, according to a survey by comparison site Finder. A separate study found groceries were the second most common online purchase product after clothing, footwear and accessories.

In response, retailers in both markets are improving the shopping experience to make it as relevant and enticing as possible whether consumers shop in-store or online. Tesco, for instance, has significantly increased its online capacity and the number of available order slots. In Australia, Coles has introduced refill stations and reduced plastic packaging, an effort which saw its Moonee Ponds store win Finder’s Most Innovative Supermarket award.

Tesco Sign

“As you’d expect, online shopping sky-rocketted during the pandemic and we’re finding more shoppers taking advantage of click and collect services, a trend that will continue even as we move into more normal times”

Sarah Andrews, MD Blackdog Australia

Rising Costs

Inflation is hitting global markets hard and neither the UK nor Australia is immune.

In the UK John Allan, the Tesco chairman made headlines recently with his warning that the worst is still to come with regards to food prices — which could rise by as much as 5 per cent. What’s the reason for price rises? Supermarkets are facing a crisis of soaring prices, energy costs and transport fees — none of which are easily solved.

In Australia, prices are rising at the fastest pace since 2008. Some categories are rising faster than others. The price of vegetables, for instance, has soared by 6.1 per cent. Even though Australia sells more locally-grown produce than the UK, the country is not immune to supply chain issues, natural disasters and other issues that mean inflation is just as big a concern.

Shopping habits


The UK and Australia have two totally different planning cycles, not to mention climates. But how does that impact consumer shopping habits?

In the UK seasonality isn’t much of an issue when it comes to produce. With a focus on imports, British consumers can enjoy strawberries and apples all year round. Consumer demand to make the most of the short summer season does lead to drastic changes in meat and poultry consumption, as well as the range of other seasonal products supermarkets stock.

In Australia, seasonality drastically impacts food preferences. Sales of soup half in the summer months, as does the consumption of salad products during winter.

Shopping produce

Buying Local

Both countries care about buying local where possible. But Australian consumers have greater access to local produce, especially when it comes to fruit and veg.

In the UK there are various standards, schemes and certifications to encourage consumers to buy local. These include the Red Tractor scheme, which is on £14 billion of British food and drink. Supermarkets have also supported local produce themselves. Tesco and Morrisons recently pledged not to sell Australian meat, for instance. But many products simply can’t be produced in the UK — partly because of the climate and partly because of a reduction in UK farmland. As a result, the UK imports more than it exports.

In Australia consumers also prefer local options. In fact, events like bushfires and the pandemic have driven a majority of consumers (85 per cent) to buy locally to aid economic recovery. With regard to groceries, 53 per cent of Australians want to buy local products over imported alternatives.


Ready Meals

Ready meals are a staple of UK dinner time. But has their popularity waned during the pandemic and are they purchased as frequently down under?

In the UK over 80% of consumers eat ready meals and three in 10 eat them at least once a week. But consumers rediscovered their love of cooking during the pandemic. Almost three-quarters of Brits said they enjoyed cooking during lockdown, with 91% saying they want to cook as often or even more over the next 12 months. As a result, the meal kit market in the UK doubled in size between 2017 and 2020.


“Shoppers are definitely looking for inspiration. A lot of the work we’ve done with Tesco has been around helping customers find and create recipes that are a little different whilst making it easy to round up the ingredients.”

Michele Callieu, Tesco UK Account Director, Blackdog.

In Australia ready meals aren’t traditionally as popular as they are in the UK, but the market is experiencing rapid growth. Ironically, part of that growth is a result of the pandemic, where lockdowns increased demand for healthy, ready-made meals. Supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths are responding quickly, launching own-brand versions and partnering with leading brands. Those brands have included meal kit companies like Marley Spoon, which have also soared in popularity in Australia. Woolworths had a 9.9 percent stake in the meal kit company, which they recently sold for $54 million.

So in summary

Aussies and Brits have a lot in common, but attitudes to grocery shopping aren’t necessarily one. We’re lucky to be able to take learnings from both sides of the world, and offer specialism in each audience. Because we may differ in many ways but we are all essentially people whose shopping experience can be made easier and more successful. To activate people you have to captivate people, and that’s what we do.