Vege-mitey rip-off

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Vegemite is more expensive in Australia than in the UK, according to research by News Media. But it’s not just Vegemite that Australians are paying more for.

On average, a 220g jar of Vegemite costs £1.98, according to comparison website mysupermarkets .co. uk . At current exchange rates, that equates to around A$3.01. The same jar at Coles costs $4.17, a whopping 39% more than the UK price. And Woolworths Limited (WOW.AX) is no cheaper, selling a 280gram jar for $5.36, or $1.91 per 100 grams. UK Vegemite costs the equivalent of $1.37 per 100g.

Vegemite is made in Australia by US giant Kraft Foods, but one wonders why a product that has to be shipped to the other side of the world costs less than in Australia.

A spokesman for Kraft Foods has told News Media, “It appears that the current batch of Vegemite available for sale in the UK was purchased at a time when the Australian dollar versus the British pound appreciated by around 10 per cent. Given the long-shelf life and iconic nature of Vegemite, it is always in demand overseas, so we often see bulk purchases when there are currency dips.”

That still doesn’t quite explain a 39% price difference.

A spokesman for Coles – owned by Wesfarmers Limited (WES.AX), said that the price at which they were able to sell a branded product like Vegemite depended on the price the manufacturer charges for it.

Woolworths also suggested that the price it charged for branded products depended a lot on the best deal they can get from suppliers. Last year, Woolworths criticised large international manufacturers for unacceptable prices in Australia, suggesting that some companies were treating Australia as an island where people don’t know what prices are around the world – which would be incorrect.

According to News Media, Australians pay much more for many products, including 80% more for a Gillette razor, 17% more for a Sony television, 37% for Nike runners, and 54% more for Colgate toothpaste.

Foolish takeaway

Tech giants Apple, Adobe and Microsoft have been called to appear before a public enquiry into the prices Australians pay for their products. Maybe the focus needs to include other multinationals.

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