Kooka's questions Woolworths shelf placement as supermarket agrees to review decision

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KOOKA’S Country Cookies claims it has been squeezed out of shelf space at interstate Woolworths supermarkets, meaning it has been unable to meet sales targets.

Woolworths informed the Donald business that its biscuits would no longer be stocked at its supermarkets in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The supermarket giant cited Kooka’s failure to meet commercial sales targets in those states and territories. They will continue to stock the biscuits in Victoria and Tasmania, however.

It has since agreed to review the decision after meeting with Victorian minister for regional development Jaala Pulford on Wednesday.

Kooka’s estimates it will lose $150,000 per year due to the decision, and may need to cut staff hours.

Kooka’s sales and administration manager Kerry Vogel said it was difficult to meet sales targets when they were given poor positions on shelves.

“We have been asking for better positions in the aisles. Normally we will be put right up the top or bottom, behind poles, or our packets will be laying flat so you can’t see the label,” she said.

“My question is: How can we sell more, if customers can’t even see them?

“We can’t meet our sales target if people can’t see the biscuits.”

US-owned Arnott’s Biscuits dominate the biscuit aisles in supermarkets across Australia. The business was purchased by Campbell Soup Company in 1997.

Ms Vogel said supermarkets should place priority on Australian made and owned.

“Looking at the Facebook comments, people have had enough. They want Australian products in Australian stores,” she said.

“All we want is a fair go.

“If they can’t put Aussie brands at eye level, it defeats the purpose.”

The business employs 28 people in Donald, a town of 1700 people.

The business will speak with Woolworths representatives on Thursday.

In a statement, Woolworths said 90 per cent of Kooka’s sales were in Victoria and Tasmania – markets that won’t be affected by the change. Kooka’s estimated it could lose 16 per cent of sales.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the stocking of their shelves was a response to consumer demand.

“We work hard to ensure we are responding to our customers' buying habits and that the products on our shelves reflect what our customers want to see,” the spokesperson said.

Victorian minister for regional development Jaala Pulford wrote to Woolworths managing director Brad Banducci on Monday asking that the company reconsider its decision.

She said Kooka’s was a “local food manufacturing success story”, and the changes sent the wrong message to other small producers.

“I am concerned that such a decision by Woolworths puts at risk local jobs in Donald and also sends an unsupportive message to the Victorian food manufacturing sector from one of Australia’s largest retailers,” Ms Pulford wrote.

Member for Ripon Louise Staley also raised the matter in parliament.