KZN to put up with sweets in queues a little longer

2015-10-21 13:35


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Woolworths has made a few promises to customers over the past year or so, namely, to remove confectionary from its snake queues, to source sow-friendly pork and to halve the number of house-branded GMO ingredient-containing foods on its shelves.

I decided to find out what was happening with these promises, as customers have often wondered out loud to me lately why stores still have sweets in the snake queue and if you pick up any of the retailer’s pork products there is still no evidence of any change, not to mention the controversial wider GMO debate.


When as a consumer journalist I took on Woolworths about the temptation sweets and chocolates pose at toddler eye level in the snake queue, about nine years ago, the retailer responded by promising to place healthy snacks in the aisle.

Biltong, nuts and dried fruit did indeed appear but the confectionary remained in reach of my pram-bound baby who was prone to grab chocolate bars and insert them in his mouth, while my toddler continued to wield pester power.

But these days I find the confectionary in the till aisle more annoying from a shopping perspective. How do you browse for a few chocolates in a narrow aisle when the queue is moving along and others are in a hurry?

I asked Woolworths when its promised change would be implemented in KwaZulu-Natal stores but the retailer was not prepared to give time frames, saying only that it would be implemented in stages.

“We will be implementing the change within all our new stores, which will open without sweets and chocolates in the bollard queues. We will then implement the rollout into our larger format stores and then down the store chain,” Woolworths said.

“We are in the process of engaging with customers on what alternative snack options they would like to see in the checkout aisles. Changes have already been implemented at Canal Walk Shopping Centre in Cape Town, and West Coast Village in Bloubergstrand.”

So, it seems KZN customers will just have to put up with it for now.


Woolworths said it had achieved its goal of halving the number of its house brand products containing ingredients derived from genetically modified crops.

When Woolworths made the promise to reduce GMOs the retailer said last September that 5,3% of its house brands contained ingredients from potential GM crops and promised this would drop to 2,7% within 12 months.

“Currently, less than two percent of Woolworths’ private label food products contain ingredients from potential GM crop sources.

“Our preference is to remove GMO or label products containing GMO ingredients,” Woolworths said, adding products had not been removed off the shelves but suppliers had found alternative ingredient sources.


SA pork producers aim to phase out the use of sow stalls that restrict movement, preventing sows from turning around and only allowing them to stand or sit for their 16-week gestation period, by 2020.

Woolworths had promised to provide sow- friendly pork products labelled “Kind to Sows” by the end of September last year, followed by processed pork such as bacon by last December and all other pork products by July 2015.

But while the products have not yet materialsed, Woolworths has reiterated its promise without providing a time frame.

“We have completed the sourcing implementation in our fresh pork products and we are in the process of signing off with authorities the customer messaging that will appear on products. This has taken longer than we had expected, and we apologise to our customers for the delay,” Woolworths said.

Woolworths said the delay had been caused by “numerous complications” facing its pork suppliers.

“They are trying to balance doing the right thing in terms of animal welfare, labour issues, land reform, whilst remaining competitive and financially viable,” Woolworths said.

“We remain committed to working with our suppliers who are making significant investments to change their infrastructure in order to ensure delivery … soonest.”

So, Woolworths has been slow in delivering on its promises, except for the GMO reduction, and I suppose it will be up to consumers and activists to hold the retailer to its outstanding promises.

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Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  consumer

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