Nappies are expensive – who knew?

Fionnuala Carolan, editor, ShelfLife
Fionnuala Carolan, editor, ShelfLife

As she enters the next phase of her grocery shopping life, Fionnuala Carolan looks into why the government should introduce a grocery code of conduct post haste.



22 April 2013

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This will be the last editorial I will write for a few months as I am going on maternity leave in a couple of weeks. The prospect of having your first child makes you conscious of a whole host of things you never noticed before. Already I’ve started looking at supermarkets in a whole different light. For example, I have begun to notice how convenient those specially allocated parent/child parking spaces could be and decided that bag packers might actually be a good idea after all. 

I’ve also recently discovered a section of the supermarket that for my entire adult life I had managed to blank – the nappy/baby food aisle. Over the past few months I have considered venturing down it a few times but always felt it was a bit soon. Finally last week I decided to tackle it and actually purchase my first packet of nappies – a huge moment. Who knew there were so many different types and that they cost so much? Okay probably every parent in the country and in fairness I had heard tales but I’d never had to factor this cost into the budget before.

After this trip I was hit by a sobering thought – I could soon be one of those people who rip ads out of the paper when certain products are on promotion. Retailers have been telling me for years of customers who present them with handbills or ads from the newspaper looking for a specific item on promotion but I probably didn’t fully believe that shoppers came to a store based on one advertised promotion. I now feel foolish as it seems completely rational to stock up on a month’s supply of nappies if on offer.

Despite always being an advocate of small supermarkets and basket shopping, I realise that I will soon have to start partaking in the world of the weekly trolley shop which will more than likely take place in one of the multiples and my choice could well be formed by the offers available on certain products. I have always been scornful of the supermarket practice of using particular products as loss leaders because I’m aware these promotions are only made possible because some supplier has taken the hit for it. It is so easy for the multiples to entice customers in while ensuring their profits remain intact and consumers do not consider how items can be sold at such a knock-down price – they are just happy that their money will stretch a little further that week. That is why it’s up to the government to implement a grocery code of practice post haste to control the actions of the few big players in the industry and to protect our indigenous suppliers. Our feature on page 22 details the types of practices rumoured to be taking place in the grocery sector today, illustrating the real need to legislate in this sector soon as possible.

While I enter the next phase of my grocery shopping life, I will try not to be blinded by the ‘too good to be true’ offer. However try as I might, I will be as susceptible as anyone else to the lure of the special promotion. And in any case it really shouldn’t be my job as a consumer to cast moral judgements on the supermarkets. It’s up to the government to show some leadership on this issue and move swiftly to protect our very vulnerable food industry.

While I’m away, Gillian Hamill, ShelfLife’s assistant editor will be taking up the role as acting editor. You can contact her on or 01 2947776.
Fionnuala Carolan,



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