A sprout organic grocery store in Brisbane has been hit by a storm of online criticism for selling organic sprouts for less than half the cost of the cheapest local supermarket sprouts.
The owner of Sprout Organic Foods said the decision to sell organic sprout was not made lightly and she would continue to sell them.
The company had a $1 million contract with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to supply organic sprouted food to retailers and the ABC understands the deal was terminated last week.
“It’s not like they have to be labelled organic and they can’t be labelled so that’s a good thing,” she said.
“If you have a really good product you can sell it and make a lot more money out of it.”
Ms Jones said Sprout would continue supplying organic sprouting to retailers, but it would cost $3.25 per 100 grams, up from $2.50.
The Sprout website states the cost per 100gram sprout is based on a standard mix of ingredients, so any differences between sprouts bought from Sprout and the cheapest store varieties were likely to be small.
The ABC has spoken to a Sprout spokeswoman who said the average price for a sprout will be about $2 per 100g, which means Sprout is selling about three times as much sprout as the cheapest supermarket brand.
Ms Jones and her husband Steve are trying to keep the business going, but said they had been forced to close the store after the ABC contacted them about the criticism.
“There’s always people who go and go on Facebook, and say, ‘I hate Sprout,’ and they’re saying, ‘We have to go buy organic food,’ so we’re just trying to make sure we’re not wasting people’s time,” she told ABC News Breakfast.
“We have a great relationship with the ABC and we’re a very, very small business, but I’m sure we’ve had a few customers say ‘I’m going to go for a good organic food.'”
Ms Jones, who runs the company for eight years, said the Sprout store had been a “supermarket wonderland” but it had become a “disaster”.
“It was a miracle that we did it,” she added.
In a statement, Sprout said the “pricing system is not sustainable and we are working with the ACCC to develop a system to better manage our pricing”. “
But we’re really happy to be doing it.”
In a statement, Sprout said the “pricing system is not sustainable and we are working with the ACCC to develop a system to better manage our pricing”.
Sprout’s contract was terminated by the ABC last week after the consumer watchdog notified the company it could no longer supply organic food.
“The Sprout franchise is being terminated as a result of the ACCCC’s investigation into Sprout, including allegations of unfair business practices,” the statement said.
Sprout Foods has been in business since 2006, and the owners had been seeking a new location since last year.
“Sprout has been an Australian icon for many years, but unfortunately, the Australian community has grown up and seen it as a bit of a niche,” Ms Jones told the ABC.
“This is a bit unfortunate.”
The ABC contacted Sprout for comment but received no response.
The supermarket chain has more than 6,500 outlets in Australia.
“People are so hungry for more affordable organic food, it’s hard to compete with them,” Ms Williams said.
The Australian Greens have also slammed Sprout.
“One Sprout supermarket is a ‘super supermarket miracle’, and all they do is sell organic food,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson’s party will table an inquiry into Sprad’s future and have called on the ACCAC to investigate the company.
The ACCC says it will not be able to conduct an investigation until it has had access to the store’s internal records.
Ms Hanson-Long also said she would push for a review of the Sprad contract, and for the Australian Federal Police to be asked to investigate.
“Spend $10,000 on Sprout – we could spend $30,000 and get the same result,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Why not do the same for the ACC?”