Shopped : The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets

by Joanna Blythman | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0007158033 Global Overview for this book
Registered by loopy1 of Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on 6/2/2004
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18 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by loopy1 from Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 02, 2004
This book was featured in a daily newspaper in the UK recently, and I was interested enough to buy it. This book does for British supermarkets what Fast Food Nation does for the fast food industry. It reveals how supermarkets treat their staff, their suppliers and their customers, the way they have influenced farming and the High Street, and shows how supermarkets have gone from a 20% share of Britain's grocery spend in the 1950's to the 80% they hold today and still desire more.
From the extracts I read in the paper I became convinced I wanted less to do with supermarkets from an ethical angle. Now I'm halfway through the book I want less to do with supermarkets because I'm convinced I can do far better elsewhere.
This book will be heading out on a ring once I've finished reading it.

Journal Entry 2 by loopy1 from Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Names so far for the ring:

Robbiesmum
perfect-circle
ermintrude75
optics
auglaise
MarianFrench
oblivious1980
Kangaroo
ziggythecat
tiggsybabes
daemonwolf
YowlYY
gooner
chelseagirl
purple-pixie
Kert01
ShelaghG
Yiremyahu
Alans-daughter
Anfield
Jackshome
ladychass (moved down by request)

Journal Entry 3 by loopy1 from Herne Bay, Kent United Kingdom on Saturday, June 05, 2004
I've finished reading this book. It's full of information on all aspects of supermarkets - from suppliers to the social impact.
We had strawberries last night from the local greengrocers. They had flavour! I'm sure I will find it very hard to continue my shopping habits as they are at the moment. I've already started buying fruit and veg from a greengrocer's rather than the supermarket.
There is a chapter at the end of the book on what individuals can do, which I felt was very necessary after reading the rest of the book.
This book will be setting out on a bookray. I hope the others find it as enlightening as I did!

Journal Entry 4 by Robbiesmum from Thirsk, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Thursday, June 10, 2004
I recently read Not On The Label which is a similar book, but, I think, more detailed on certain areas of food exploring the suppliers and global farming. I wanted to know more about the general supermarkets as I have had some bad reactions to foods I shouldn't be allergic to like apples and celery. I put it down to pesticides. I buy my meat at a local supermarket and have just flicked through to the meat chapter, and am already glad at this! Thanks Loopy1 for organising this ring.

Just to add, I am so excited, I started this last night, and at the end of chapter 1 was a mention of Booths supermarket as a good supermarket. This is the one where I shop which I mentioned in the above paragraph. They do include a lot of local produce including ice cream, milk, meat,fish, real Cumberland sausage, cooked meats, bread, cakes, and veg. Hooray! Booths is a great supermarket. I'm really glad it is being recognised - the Saturday Telegraph has included it a couple of times in the food section as you can request a product and they'll do their best to get it.

Right, I'll add another journal when I've finished the book. Am reading it now.

Journal Entry 5 by Robbiesmum from Thirsk, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Monday, June 14, 2004
What an enlightening weekend I've had reading this! And how smug I now feel because i shop at Booth's which comes out relatively well! My hubby, mum and I recently stopped shopping at Sainsbury's as they have become so expensive in the fresh veg section, and also they keep changing the ingredients in their cooked meats and their grilled burgers. Now i know why. They are aiming at low cost and probably dumped the people who made the burgers I could eat. The last cooked turkey my mum bought was wet and fatty.

I was fascinated to read about suppliers paying for sampling and BOGOF offers. Also, the treatment of the Own Brand suppliers was shocking. I do tend to buy my meat at Booth's - also cheese and veg as it often comes from local suppliers. Their meat is generally local and they have their own slaughterhouse, so I know the meat hasn't travelled far.

I buy bread from the local bakery which is next door to the pharmacy (actually it's across Lancaster where we used to live!) and have been joining in the campaign to stop supermarkets taking over pharmacies. It is really shocking how quickly independent shops have been run down, and I will try my best to buy more local veg. I learnt most about the treatment of own brand suppliers and kept reading out sections.

I guess I am a bit different as I don't really eat processed foods (except those burgers!) due to my allergies. Price isn't my priority - it's the food. So I support local shops and Booth's evben though other people say they're expensive. (I haven't found it so.) This book has made me very aware of the behaviour of buyers and the advertising which affects suppliers. I genuinely didn't know they paid for these offers, and will seriously consider what I buy in future.
Thanks Loopy1 for organising this bookring. I'll pass this on to Perfect-Circle next.

Journal Entry 6 by perfect-circle from Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom on Saturday, June 19, 2004
arrived this morning. Will try to pass it on as soon as possible.

Thanks

Journal Entry 7 by perfect-circle from Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear United Kingdom on Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Absolutely fascinating and, in my opinion, vital reading. I have to admit to feeling a little smug reading this as in the last few months, I have moved away from supermarket shopping. I have a great butcher and fishmonger now and after reading this I will be seeking out our local market for fruit and veg as well.

I was appalled at how much control supermarkets have over the suppliers, charging for sample, promotions and demanding money with the threat of product removal.

I loathe supermarket shopping as an experience at the best of times and Shopped has just made me more determined to spend even less time and money in there.

Thank you very much Loopy1. Will be off to ermintrude75 at the weekend.

Journal Entry 8 by ermintrude75 from Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Arrived safe and sound yesterday... thanks perfect-circle! I will do my best to read this and pass it on before I go away on the 18th.

Journal Entry 9 by ermintrude75 from Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I was surprised how fast I read this... sort of carried away on a tide of annoyance I think! I have never been too keen on supermarkets in general, and especially dislike the identikit, perfect, bland and underripe fruit and veg, but I obviously wasn't cynical enough as I admit some of the "cuddly advertising" got to me, with promises of local produce and so on. Now I feel a bit guilty even at the thought of stepping over Tesco's threshold! From now on, they will get less of my cash.

This weekend I did do my meat and veg shopping at independents, and feel like I did well price-wise and quality-wise. It will be hard to keep up, especially for those midweek stock-ups - when you get home from work at 6pm or later, what independent greengrocer or butcher will be open? - but this book has convinced me that it's worth the extra effort. I may even be buying my own copy to pass around to friends!

Thanks for the eye-opener! I'll pass the book on ASAP.

Journal Entry 10 by optics from Derby, not specified not specified on Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Before I read this book I hated supermarket shopping although I do nearly every week. I dive into Morris ons on a Saturday keep my head down and race round picking up the same things week in and week out. I can dash in race around and be back home within the hour and the rest of the weekend will be food shopping free.

I have always been against supermarkets stocking none food related items such as DVD's and especially garden furniture (who in there right mind thinks of sticking a reclining garden chair in a aisle on the busiest day of the week is a good idea?). So I hate supermarkets and shopping, plus knew already they were not particularly kind with their suppliers and staff. (I have worked in a Sainsbury's for half a year (although was hired by sub-contractor). The village I came used to be big on Market Gardening and now there is none or very little. Do I think this book is still worth reading?

Short answers is Yes, absolutely there is still much to learn. This book is clear and concise, looking at each part of the supermarket life in turn. The author takes time to go through a point, offer evidence, giving you the choice in one place to skip some pages if you think you will find it heavy going. Towards the end of the book supermarkets are given space to reply about what has been suggested. Pretty soon after the start you will find yourself wanting to ready more and you will reach the end soon having learnt a lot more then you knew already.

Will this book change my shopping habits? If I am honest I will say probably not, I will give it ago. The week head down and grab shop is what I currently have time for and can manage to fit in. As I am hearing on the radio quite a bit the notion of cash rich time poor country we currently live in, is something I sympathise with. Although low on ready meals, I home make and freeze for later date usually but that takes a special effort to find the time. Increase my shopping and cooking time would be glorious, can I manage it?? Will I stay seduced by colourful displays and offers that the supermarket throws at me? Time will tell.

Thanks for the book it was good to read.

(oh finally before I go there was a fair once that came up with the idea of taking your store cards and swapping them with other people there. The idea was to still have store card you collect points on but it would confuse the system when a single male, swapped with Mother of 4 from another part of the country. Imagine the sudden change in shopping habits, good idea I thought. I don't have any supermarket store cards myself).

Journal Entry 11 by Auglaise from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, July 31, 2004
I've been wanting to read this for quite some time now, and was really please when it arrived today!

Journal Entry 12 by Auglaise from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Monday, August 09, 2004
Reading this book made me really angry. Not at the author, of course, but at the supermarkets themselves. The more I learn about the huge, multi-national corporations (of which supermarkets are a part) the less I want to do with them. I find it increasingly frusterating to go to the Tesco's/Sainsbury's/whatever and be completely unable to find anything that looks like it would actually be good to (gasp) eat. Like when you look at an apple that is so perfect it glows and wonder how they've managed to convince everyone that it's actually a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cleverly sculpted wax.

The problem I'm now having is that I can't find alot of the stuff that you can get at the supermarket elsewhere. I'm big into organic food, and unfortunately the Tesco's near me has one of the biggest selections of organic anything that I've seen. There are a couple of healthfood stores that stock some organic canned and dried food, but I'm really having a tough time finding simple things, like tinned tomatoes elsewhere. After intensive internet searching, I uncovered a Sunday organic farmer's market in Cardiff....but it's only open on a Sunday, and only for four hours. Not too much help if I'm working (which I usually am).

The book has also made me want to go around muttering "Lies!" under my breath every time I see those cute, cuddly adverts the Supermarkets have. I also want to convince all my friends to buy their food elsewhere. I think I'll probably be buying this book, several times, and passing it on to others. Apologies if this was somewhat incoherent, I'm super tired! Hope you all got the gist! ^_^

Journal Entry 13 by Auglaise at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Released on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring Controlled Releases.

Being posted today!

Journal Entry 14 by MarianFrench from Buxton, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Monday, August 16, 2004
Thanks for the book. It arrived on Friday but we've had various visitors that have kept me away from the computer (and reading!). Will journal again when I've read. Marian

Journal Entry 15 by MarianFrench from Buxton, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Monday, September 06, 2004
Thank you very much for sharing this book. I really need to say a huge ditto to many of the points made by previous journallers. I cannot say that any of the book really surprised me (except, perhaps, for the part about there being no written contracts in existance).

If you read the supermarket responses at the back of the book there seems to be a huge divide between how they believe they act and what their suppliers are saying. I would like to have seen some of the supermarkets statements being challenged.

I am very lucky to live near a (true) market town with only a small (Co-op) supermarket. We have several butchers and greengrocers which are excellent. Yes, the process takes a bit longer but I love the personal service! I have to admit that I do buy from Tesco online because of the organics issue (similar to Auglaise). The only organic cereal the Co-op stocks is cornflakes, Tesco has lots!

I am about to send a second PM to oblivious1980 for an address and then the book will be on its way again

Thanks, Marian

Journal Entry 16 by oblivious1980 from Sheffield, South Yorkshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Oops! Forgot to 'catch' this one, sorry!

I found this really interesting and it really made me take a proper look as I wandered around the fruit and veg section of Asda. I had never really thought before about how perfect everything looks or that everything lacks in taste.

Sheffield is very much a city dominated by supermarkets and I have to admit I have been brainwashed into thinking they equal quality and value. I happily buy into the idea that there are lots of lovely reasons to shop at Morrissons and that Jamie Oliver really does trawl the length and breadth of the country to find me the best cheese.

I was equally shocked by the way promotional offers are implemented and it never even crossed my mind that the supermarkets didn't fund them. I don't know what I thought I happened, in fact I'm pretty sure I have never done any thinking of any kind before walking into a supermarket! They are just there and cheap and are open when I need them to be.

Reading this has made me want to take some of my custom away to local independents but how achievable it is I'm not sure. I have certainly stopped popping into Asda just for a pint of milk in favour of the little shop on the corner and was quite delighted to find they also have a small range of fruit and vegetables.

I do think this is a worthwhile read, not least because it seems we are all settling for second best without even realising it!

Journal Entry 17 by oblivious1980 at Post Office in By Post, By Post -- Controlled Releases on Friday, December 10, 2004
Released on Friday, December 10, 2004 at about 8:00:00 AM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at Post Office in By Post, By Post Controlled Releases.

RELEASE NOTES:

On its way to Kangaroo

Journal Entry 18 by kangaroo from Barnet, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Oho! Looks very interesting; my boyfriend already gets an organic box from Abel & Cole, but I don't know much about the mechanics involved in supermarkets. Bit worried to be honest; do I really want all my illusions shattered?
(Yes is the answer. Yes I do.)

Journal Entry 19 by kangaroo from Barnet, Greater London United Kingdom on Friday, February 11, 2005
I was completely shocked to realise that most people do actually eat ready meals. (of the 'whole meal in a single carton, just reheat' variety).

Anyway. Needless to say, most of the other stuff in this book also shocked me. It was a bit slow to start off with, but then had me transfixed. They need a better proof-reader though, Cheshunt is of course in Hertfordshire, not Herefordshire as stated!

I will be trying out a couple of box-schemes in my area over the next few weeks, which I had been thinking about for a while now. Reading this book has definitely galvanized me into action on this front! Unfortunately I'm just outside the Organic Delivery Company's area, which makes me sad because they look great, but there are others closer to me.

Currently awaiting a response from tiggsybabes as to whether she wants to read this now or skip it, as ziggy wanted to do.

Journal Entry 20 by kangaroo from Barnet, Greater London United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Sent to Daemonwolf today, since both ziggy and tiggs asked to be moved down the list a bit.

Journal Entry 21 by rem_DYI-991976 on Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Received gratefully. :)

Journal Entry 22 by rem_DYI-991976 on Thursday, March 31, 2005
This has been reviewed over on my book blog, all comments welcomed!

Journal Entry 23 by rem_DYI-991976 at on Friday, April 08, 2005

Released 15 yrs ago (4/9/2005 UTC) at

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

Off to Gabriella. :)

Journal Entry 24 by YowlYY on Saturday, April 09, 2005
Nia/Daemonwolf was so kind to bring with her the book to the meet, where I got my hands on it. Finally! It seems a long time since I signed up for this bookring and I can see plenty of JEs...I will, however, not read them until I've read the book. Watch this space for my comments, hopefully in 2 or 3 weeks time (yes, the bookrings have again invaded my home and this one is fourth in the queue!).

Journal Entry 25 by YowlYY on Wednesday, May 04, 2005
An excellent book that goes straight to the point. I agree with all that has been said in the previous journal entries, and as an alien I find the hidden politics of the supermarkets in the UK very worrying. Alas, despite extensive coverage from the newspapers (the last article I found on the Guardian last weekend, Is the supermarket past its sell-by date? in the Jobs&Money section), whenever I am in the local Sainsbury's I cannot but notice how many people do use them, and how many fall for the ready cooked products.
So why do I use Sainsbury's, indeed? I just have to - at least for some of the things they have. This is spring greens mainly (and the organic Sainsbury's coffee my BF likes), and I blame my rabbits! LOL
I have currently five rabbits living under my roof (three are being fostered until their "mum"'s situation has changed) and they eat loads...not as many carrots, but spring greens, and where else would I find them in bulk at any time of the year if not there? I have a small Co-op facility store across the road, but they don't stock perishable goods like greens, and even if I could go to the Saturday market, I have a 50% chance to come back from the market without greens (and I thought they were so common!). Also, I cannot buy too much in one go, as although we have a fridge almost only for bunnies' food, they become welk after a few days, so...unless I can plant them myself (and I am going to try), I have to visit the supermarket.
I subscribed to an organic vegetable box delivery, and I buy the organic meat, cheese and fish also from an organic farm that also do deliveries, and my washing powder and washing-up liquids come from the health shop in the city. Apart from the delivered goods, all the rest needs to be purchased in Nottingham centre for me, or in Beeston, where there is a great organic supermarket. How many people, however, would be prepared to face a long drive every 2-3 days (or, as in my case, a long bus journey) to boycot Asda, Sainsbury's &co.? I really miss local grocery and fruit&vegs shops as we still have them in Italy. Speaking of which, I recently spoke to an Italian BCer and he mentioned that the supermarket situation is taking over in Italy too...worrying thought!! My mother will go every week/10 days to the superstore (Carrefour, of French origin!!)for washing powder, tinned tomatoes, oil and pasta, as it is very cheap, but the fresh stuff, including bread, will be bought at the local bakery and shops, or from the street sellers, who have all seasonal greens and fruits, and from a local market on Wednesdays...a wonderful way to do the shopping.

The book is now on its way to Gooner...happy reading and thanks to Lin for sharing this. I am now looking forward to reading Not on the Label!

Journal Entry 26 by Gooner from March, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 10, 2005
This book arrived safely last Friday, and I've read the first 9 chapters. Thanks very much to loopy1 for letting it out travelling and to YowlYY for forwarding it.

Updated 31 May 2005: What else can I say that hasn't been covered by previous readers? The quote on the back cover by Jonathan Meades sums it all up:

"With a coolness that is, in the circumstances, remarkable, Joanna Blythman demonstrates the proof of what many of us have long suspected - that supermarkets practise a doucely tyrannical form of totalitarianism."

I hesitate to call it a must-read, because it made me feel angry and helpless, because the battle to change supermarkets' power over our shopping habits is just too huge to contemplate!

It's off to chelseagirl asap.

Journal Entry 27 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Sunday, June 05, 2005
Arrived safely at the weekend, thanks :0)

I'm a little bit wary of reading this, as i read another of Jaonna Blythman's books last year and foudn her attitude a bit preachy. however, this has had such good reviews here that it will hopefully be a much more informed read. looking forward to it!

Journal Entry 28 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Thursday, June 16, 2005
Well, I found this easier to read than Blythman's other book, but I ahve to admit that about halfway through i felt she was repeating herself a lot and I kind of switched off ... having said that, I did learn a lot of new shocking details about the way supermarkets work. I hate shopping at the best of times, and supermarket shopping with a passion, and I am going to try and shop in more independent stores from now on! I went into my local Boots to get a prescription and have bought some veg at the greengrocer's, where I had a very interesting chat with him about some of the issues in the book. It's going to be hard though ...

I felt the most interesting chapters of the book were those about the supermarkets of the future and about how we can try and change the system - but unfortunately this was way too short, and I got the feeling that Blythman knows there's nothing to stop Tesco, Asda et al. taking over the world, and her suggestions were just there to make her feel a bit better about it.

An interesting book, but I think Not on the Label is far better!

I'll post this to ladychass as soon as I have an address.


Journal Entry 29 by chelseagirl from Faringdon, Oxfordshire United Kingdom on Friday, June 17, 2005
LadyChass has asked to be skipped so I'll forward this to ShelaghG.

Journal Entry 30 by purple-pixie from Nuneaton, Warwickshire United Kingdom on Saturday, July 23, 2005
Received this morning, thanks, Chelseagirl.

Journal Entry 31 by purple-pixie from Nuneaton, Warwickshire United Kingdom on Monday, August 08, 2005
Ther's very little that I can say that hasn't already been said by others, and more eloquently! I have been feeling uneasy about my choice to buy such a large proportion of our food budget to a supermarket based on nothing more than ease of parking, and since starting to read this book I have made much more of an effort to support smaller independent retailers, our local market etc. The problem is that price has to be a major factor in my purchasing decisions at the moment, and that's where the supermarkets have their strength - paid for by farmers and suppliers. At least now I can make my choices understanding the wider issues.

Journal Entry 32 by kert01 on Thursday, January 05, 2006
Sorry about the delay guys... ever since I moved house a few months ago, everything has been upside down!

I did read most of this book(!) and although it seemed a little repetitive at times, I have taken some of the ideas onboard. Oddly, the one that sticks with me most is the one about the irony of having to pay to park in town centres actually being bad for them compared to free out of town parks...

Will contact the next person and hopefully get it off soonish.

Journal Entry 33 by kert01 on Monday, January 23, 2006
I haven't had a reply from the next person on the list, so after two-and-a-half weeks, have decided to skip and request addy from the next person. If anyone later on wants to try again when they have finished please do, and I will make a note if I do here back at a later date.

Journal Entry 34 by Yiremyahu on Monday, January 30, 2006
Arrived today. Thanks. :)

Journal Entry 35 by Yiremyahu on Thursday, February 09, 2006
That was interesting - there's so much that I hadn't realised behind supermarkets. There used to be a much wider variety of shops around where I live, and now it's mostly restaurants and estate agents; probably something to do with the Asda that opened up several years ago (we used to have a small Sainsbury's, but I guess it wasn't big enough to have the same effect on the local shops).

Journal Entry 36 by alans-daughter from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Arrived this morning - thank you yiremyaho. Will get to it next. Looks interesting.

Journal Entry 37 by Anfield from Bagshot, Surrey United Kingdom on Sunday, March 26, 2006
Firstly, my apologies for not journalling this when I received it, I took it upstairs as my bedtime reading and that is where it stayed! I have finished it now and found it very thought provoking.

Like so many things in our 21st century western society, supermarkets are growing without any of us having the power alone to stop it. Shareholder is king, and shareholder wants returns so boards will do anything in the pursuit of greater profits and better returns for shareholders. The supermarkets' grip is scary, and while nothing in this book really surprised me it was useful to see it written down in black and white. The most useful chapter was the last and I will certainly take small and increasingly bigger steps to change how I shop. I just hope i succeed! Last week I decided to buy all my cleaning supplies from a local diy, hardware and you-name-it-we-stock-it store. But they didn't stock Ecover so I bought lightbulbs, bin liners and little else. Still it means I won't be buying those things from Sainsburys. I also found myself in Acton this weekend and joyfully bought pak choi and aubergines from a small independent Asian grocer. Small steps, but they will get bigger, I promise. We as a society must tsop this thing before it controls us.

Now onto jackshome.

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