BUSINESSDESK: One of Australia's biggest supermarket chains has dropped New Zealand's Mainland cheese brand, much to the chagrin of its loyal customers, but Mainland's owner Fonterra is still smiling after its Aussie-made Bega brand remains a Coles Supermarkets favourite.
Two months after withdrawing Mainland from its cheese lineup in August, Coles has been forced to explain the move after customer complaints, which continue on the company's website.
Coles says the decision was part of commitment to Australian-made products. It aims to stock 90% locally made groceries.
"In a recent review, we set to ensure the vast majority of our cheese range is Australian-made and as a cheese manufactured in New Zealand, Mainland was one of the brands we replaced with an Australian-made option," Melbourne-based Coles says on its website.
"Coles Brand cheese is also now 100% Australian following a new contract with Bega."
Bega was licensed to Fonterra in 2001 but remains Australian-owned and operated in the Bega Valley off the coast of New South Wales.
Cheese brands Australian Great Ocean Road, Coon and Jindi Cheese are stocked as well as Bega.
Fonterra also owns the Melbourne-based Perfect Italiano brand, Australia's Western Star butter brand and the flavoured milk drink, CalciYum.
"The discontinuation of much of Mainland at Coles is in no way a reflection of our commitment to Mainland, Australia or the dairy sector," an Australian-based Fonterra spokeswoman told BusinessDesk. "We continue to be in active discussions with Coles around the future of the brand and its role within the category."
"The full Mainland range is available nationally at all Woolworths stores, Woolworths online and the independent supermarkets including IGA, Ritchies, Foodland and Foodworks," she says.
The world's biggest dairy exporter has sold Mainland products across the Tasman for 55 years. It has manufacturing sites across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, collecting over 1.4 billion litres of milk from around 1500 dairy farmers and employs more than 2000 people.
Feedback on the Coles website suggests Australian customers sympathise with the sentiment, but not the decision.
An indicative comment, from a customer named Valerie, said: "I prefer buying local produce where possible, but Mainland is a superior product. We've always shopped at Coles in the past but will now have to go to Woolies to get a decent cheese."