How do you think that the costs of the food at Eltham Farmers’ Market compare with a) the local small shops and b) supermarkets? Well, we didn’t know so we decided to do some surveys to find out.
In total, we have undertaken four quarterly surveys from Winter 2015 to Autumn 2016. These surveys focussed on veggies and fruit, but also covered some other staples (eggs, bread, etc). Because they are not considered to be at all comparable, condiments etc were not included1 and, for similar reasons, meat was not covered. Certified Organic veggies were covered but, because they were often priced differently than non-organics (e.g. per bunch), they are not included in the analysis below.
In total, around 300 comparisons were made, collectively covering 50 different veggies, 17 different fruit and 8 different staples. The detailed results for each of the four surveys can be found at:
The seasonal availability of veggies and fruit at the farmers’ market can be found here.
Obviously there are caveats about the precise comparability (e.g. one seller’s bunch will be a different size than another’s; varieties; etc). For this reason, the results are presented in the aggregate only. Also, the results relate to costs only and say nothing about relative freshness, tastiness, etc.
As you will see, the relative costs vary a bit by type of food and by survey. One thing is, however, crystal clear: the supermarket is NOT generally cheaper than either the farmers’ market or the greengrocer for veggies and fruit.. Of the 135 comparisons between the farmers’ market and the supermarket, the farmers’ market was cheaper in 60 cases, the supermarket was cheaper in 30 cases, and the prices were similar in 45 cases (similar meaning within 10% of each other). Of the 150 comparisons between the greengrocer and the supermarket, the greengrocer was cheaper in 80 cases, the supermarket was cheaper in 30 cases, and the prices were similar in 40 cases.
A wide range of veggies was available from the market (30 in Winter, 35 in Spring, 40 in Summer and 40 in Autumn).
For most veggies, their cost at the market does not vary much by season2.
On average, in each of the 4 surveys, the greengrocer was the cheapest.
On average, in Winter, the farmers’ market was around 10% cheaper than the supermarket and 10% more expensive than the greengrocer.
On average, in Spring, the farmers’ market was similar to the supermarket and around 15% more expensive than the greengrocer.
On average, in Summer, the farmers’ market was around 10% more expensive than the supermarket and 20% more expensive than the greengrocer.
- On average, in Autumn, the farmers’ market, supermarket and greengrocer were all similar.
The availability of fruit is highly seasonal3: 6 fruits were available at the Winter market, 10 were available at the Spring market, 10 were available at the Summer market and 4 were available at the Autumn market.
In 3 of the 4 surveys (all bar Summer), the farmers’ market was the cheapest.
On average, in both Winter and Spring, the farmers’ market was around 15-20% cheaper than both the supermarket and the greengrocer.
On average, in Summer, the farmers’ market was around 10% cheaper than the greengrocer and 10% more expensive than the supermarket.
- On average, in Autumn, the farmers’ market was around 25% cheaper than the supermarket and 30% cheaper than the greengrocer (based on 4 fruit only).
The staples available at the market include bread, milk, eggs and cheese.
- The cost comparisons were a bit all over the place, with the farmers’ market prices being competitive for some items (e.g. free range eggs and some cheeses) but more expensive for others.
1. The subject of condiments & makers might, some time in the future, be discussed in another article. Whilst the veggie and fruit growers at the market generally make their living from growing and selling their produce, those making condiments are generally not able to. This is not because of their profit margins; rather, it is because they simply don’t sell enough.
2. For example, whilst beans were $8 per Kg throughout the year at the farmers’ market, they varied across the year from $4 per Kg to $8 per Kg at the supermarket.
3. See the seasonality page.