Wednesday 25 July 2012

Reference prices

Canadians looking for a reference price for milk in a free market could do worse than the series being put out by Their Commodity Price Tracker has nice price graphs for the cheapest available brand or variety of each of these, from June 2011 to present, at supermarkets and convenience stores. Think of it as the price you'd expect poorer cohorts to be paying for store-brand or no-name product if they're not shopping around a lot - lower prices can be available if you shop around. Two dairies on Ferry Road on my commute home have been having a minor price war on milk, with one at $2.79 and the other at $2.69 for a 2 litre bottle, or about $1.87 CAD after removing our 15% GST. The signs advertising those prices have been out for months.

From the June 2012 figures, all reported in Canadian dollars (1 NZD = 0.80 CAD) and after having subtracted GST (15%, otherwise included in price).
  • 500 grams salted butter: $2.46
  • 1 kg mild cheddar: $6.35
  • 2 litres standard homogenised milk: $2.27
In all cases, you should probably compare with prices available in major metropolitan Canadian areas; remote areas of New Zealand will have higher prices. Note too that most grocery items wind up being more expensive here because of fixed costs and small markets: broccoli runs $2/head in winter and maybe $1/head in summer ($NZ on all of these, including GST); bread's about $2/loaf; rump steak's usually around $12/kg and scotch fillet, on sale, is usually around $23/kg. Kiwifruit, in season, can be less than $1/kg.

I'm not sure what current Canadian prices are on any of these; unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any Canadian supermarket that puts its prices online. I wonder why New Zealand is so much more advanced on that one - our supermarket industry is at least as oligopolistic as the Canadian one and the fixed costs of the system can't be spread across as many people. 


  1. In Canadian dollars excluding state taxes from Safeway in USA, 500 grams of salted butter goes for $4.15, 1 kg of mild cheddar goes for $8.66, and 2 litres of standard homogenised whole milk goes for either $2.31 or $2.80, depending if you buy a full gallon or a half gallon respectively. All dairy products are Lucerne dairy products, as they are usually the cheapest brand -- most comparable against the budget brand in New Zealand. The prices for the dairy products were not on sale. I used the current conversion rate of USD 1 = CAD 1.0220.

  2. Thanks for that. The American system is hardly a free market either; ask Hein Hettinga.

  3. Here is an article comparing prices in BC with Washington state.