SME’s in the Australian food industry are up against it if they see their futures as suppliers to the major chains, who require a combination of utter commitment, globally competitive costs, and supply certainty requiring substantial scale and the attendant capital base. 

Added to all that, small business has it all in front of them in any stoush with a large corporation. Metcash, the nations largest wholesaler, and effectively the third force in Australian FMCG via its supply arrangements with independent retailers seems to relish a fight.

They chose to fight Andrew Bunn, a small retailer in Canberra who went to the wall, and then accused Metcash of breaking their supply contract. The blue Metcash then  picked with the  ACCC over their proposed purchase of Franklins has been entertaining. Metcash informed the ACCC they would go ahead with their purchase of the Franklins chain from Pick n Pay before the ACCC delivered its decision, ballsy call, justified as the Federal Court gave them the go-ahead, but the ACCC is now appealing the decision. Who knows what will happen next, but the ACCC must assert its power in the marketplace or become irrelevant, but whilst the legal stuff drags on Franklins is bleeding cash, virtually removing them from the scene as an ongoing concern, whoever owns them.

I’m sure there is more to come, but none of it matters much to the SME manufacturer facing a small number of retail gorillas who exercise their power ruthlessly, and without any empathy with their suppliers. The ghost of Eric Bender who inhabits the memory of the few of us still around who dealt with him, would shake his head in dismay, and take another drag.