First came the milk discounting wars. Then came the battle of cheap bread. Now two Australian supermarkets have fired the first shots in a new price war by slashing the price of bulk sausages.
Woolworths was the first to announce its cut-price snags on Friday morning by discounting its Homebrand thin sausages to $6.95 for a 1.8-kilogram pack of 24. That equates to 29 cents each or roughly $3.90 per kilo, down from 49 cents per sausage.
Aldi responded quickly on Friday afternoon by announcing it would reduce its 24-pack by 10 cents to $6.89 from Saturday, the same price per sausage as Woolworths.
Coles seemed reluctant to be drawn into the fray, however, issuing a statement that said the price of its 1.7-kilogram pack of beef barbecue sausages remained $7.
The head of trading for meat at Woolworths, Jim Stephan, said the promotion was announced in anticipation of Australia Day and would run indefinitely. The relevant sausages were made from 100 per cent Australian beef and lamb, he said.
"Aussies love their sausages, especially over the summer holidays, so we wanted to help our customers enjoy a great family barbecue that includes ... quality food at a great price," he said.
Yet despite Aldi's quick response to the announcement by Woolworths, the supermarket distanced itself from discounting that "put pressure on the supply chain".
"As a business, we do not support the introduction of pricing levels which are unsustainable in the long term," an Aldi spokesperson said in a statement emailed to goodfood.com.au.
While steep discounting can be expected to place pressure on some independent butchers at least one small player seemed unfazed by the news. David Hawkins of David's Quality Family Meats in North Strathfield is only steps away from a Woolworths supermarket on Concord Road in Sydney but said it was difficult to know if he would be affected.
"Obviously little butchers are fighting it hard against supermarkets but this shop has been around nearly 100 years," he said.
"The customer base knows they can get cheap stuff at Woolworths but they come to me knowing they can get good stuff."
Hawkins said small butchers in shopping centres who relied on passing trade would have more difficulty competing with big supermarkets but that it was unlikely cheap sausages tasted as good as the gourmet equivalent.
"I very much doubt [quality would compare] but I can't really say - there may be [discount] sausages that are as good as mine but you're free to try them," he said.
In September Coles, Woolworths and Aldi engaged in a cut-price bread war, reducing the cost of a 650-gram store-brand loaf to 85 cents. This was preceded by the "milk wars" of 2011, in which supermarkets heavily discounted the price of milk.