Revealed: The most commonly stolen items from Aussie supermarkets

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There has been a dramatic rise in thefts from our supermarket shelves with new research revealing the most common items falling victim to sticky fingers.

The Australia and New Zealand Retail Crime Survey 2019 has found topping the list of most stolen items is baby formula, followed by meat and face cream.

The research, based off 9000 stores with an annual turnover of about $95 billion a year, said most items stolen were under $20 in value, but they were being filched much more frequently than goods with high price tags.

Self service checkouts at a Woolworths store in Sydney.
Thieves are targeting self service checkouts to commit their crimes. Source: AAP

Self-service checkouts are often targeted by shoplifters, according to the report – a problem supermarkets are trying to combat by installing weights and cameras.

As a result of these thefts, supermarkets have lost a whopping $3.37 billion in the 2017-2018 financial year, counting for over 50 per cent of revenue lost from stores from crime.

Baby formula ‘daigou’ phenomenon

In the wake of videos emerging from supermarkets of ‘daigous’ ignoring the two-tin baby formula limit and filling trolleys with dozens of items, the report said shoplifters were becoming more organised.

Baby formula is seen at MyClinic Mulgrave Medical Centre in Melbourne. Source: AAP
Baby formula is one of the most common items stolen from supermarkets. Source: AAP

“There is a large resale market for goods including stolen food and champagne being sold to restaurants, and baby formula being sold to China as part of the ‘daigou’ phenomenon,” the report said.

Earlier this week a ring of baby formula thieves were busted in Melbourne after they allegedly stole cans in more than 40 burglaries in one month.

‘It’s easy to get away with petty theft’

Lead researcher on the study and Reader in Criminology at the University of London, Emmeline Taylor, said thieves were becoming more brazen.

“Thieves now tell me that it’s easy to get away with petty theft. Reward greatly outweighs the risk,” she said in a statement.

“There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this, including the introduction of self-service checkouts, and changes in criminal behaviour.”

Dr Taylor said micro-gangs were now also raiding shops during business hours using ‘steaming’ techniques.

“...used by gangs to overpower mobile phone shops in broad daylight, often intimidating staff and pushing customers out of the way to reach stock,” she said.

A stock image of meat on display in a new Woolworths supermarket in Everton Park in Brisbane's northern suburbs.
Meat is one of the items under $20 stolen from supermarkets. Source: AAP

“Many think that retail crime is a victimless crime – that the large retailers build expected losses into their profit margin – but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Dr Taylor calculated the $3.37 billion loss was enough to employ 85,000 checkout staff for a year.

Mark Gentle, vice president of Checkpoint Australia – which sponsored the research – said it was evident thieves had upped their game when it came to retail crime.

“These findings should encourage retailers to invest in further theft prevention measures,” he said.

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