Advertisement

Canada grocery prices: Canadian shoppers guffaw at 'unbelievable' $40 tub of feta at Loblaws store in Ottawa

One expert told Yahoo Canada this kind of pricing is reflective of the type of business model the grocery empire Loblaw runs

A nearly $40 container of feta being sold at Loblaws is baffling grocery shoppers, especially since similar products can easily be found for more than half the price at other retailers.

But one expert told Yahoo Canada this kind of pricing is reflective of the type of business model the grocery empire runs — one that doesn’t distinguish itself as being a price leader, but rather one of convenience.

A viral photo posted to the Reddit forum Loblaws Is Out of Control, under the title “Unbelievable,” shows a 1-kilogram tub of Krinos feta cheese sold at a Ottawa Loblaws store for $38.99.

The original poster said that while they mostly shop at discount chain Food Basics, they ran into a Loblaws store to grab something and were “clutching” their “pearls at the prices.”

A nearly $40 container of feta being sold at Loblaws is baffling grocery shoppers, especially since similar products can easily be found for more than half the price at other retailers.
A nearly $40 container of feta being sold at Loblaws is baffling grocery shoppers, especially since similar products can easily be found for more than half the price at other retailers.

Expert: Stores are about convenience, not deals

Daniel Tsai is an adjunct business professor at Toronto Metropolitan University. He explained that while Loblaws' pricing has become a common complaint for many Canadians, they should realize that that’s part of their business model.

“They’re not going after discount shoppers,” he tells Yahoo Canada News. “They’re going after urban areas, or where they have a monopoly on the neighbourhood. They’re going after urban shoppers who are more focused on convenience and who are less price sensitive than those who go to Walmart.”

While Walmart is known for its discounts and price matching, Tsai says that Loblaws' approach is more geared to the huge retail footprint they occupy in the country.

Under Loblaw Companies Limited, the giant owns a large portfolio of different businesses throughout the country. This includes some grocery chains that are regional, like Provigo Le Marché in Quebec, and Loblaws, No Frills, and Real Canadian Superstore locations elsewhere. They also own banking system PC Financial and drug store chain Shoppers Drug Mart, amongst other things. Tsai says that having such a wide range of holdings in Canada is an essential part of the company's success.

“Their thing is that you don’t have a choice to go anywhere else,” he said. “Because of the convenience, consumers are going to pay a premium for the products. They don’t have to sell themselves as the place to buy cheap groceries because their whole selling point is that they’re convenient.”

Canada reacts: Reddit forum planning Loblaw boycott

Many in the 300 comments of the Reddit post expressed shock at the high price for what many consider a basic type of cheese.

“I buy fancy cheese from a cheese shop,” danielledelacadie wrote. “For not much more than that I can get Macedonian sheep's milk feta. And they want almost the same price for industrial squeaker feta?”

“The price probably includes a round trip to Greece as well,” mbap76 joked.

Others in the comments pointed out that the same quantity of feta cheese was being sold for significantly less at outlets like Costco, which was selling 1.2 kilograms for $15.98 at a Toronto location, and Walmart, which had it for $14.98.

Since the Loblaws is Out of Control forum started last November, it’s been a go-to place to post eyebrow-raising prices on everyday items at Loblaw-affiliated stores, like No Name olive oil for $58.99, or $16 watermelons.

Members of the online community have recently started organizing a national boycott of the grocery chain, planned for the month of May. Part of the call to action includes demanding a 15 per cent reduction in prices, along with the removal of "member only pricing."