Entrepreneurs planning third supermarket chain to challenge Foodstuffs and Woolworths

A group of entrepreneurs wants to start a third supermarket chain to join the sector's two-horse race.

The group is said to include 2Degrees founder Tex Edwards and is identified only as Northelia Version 1.4.

When it comes to supermarkets in New Zealand, there are really only two groups to choose from: Foodstuffs and Woolworths NZ.

But a new submission to the Commerce Commission reveals there could be a new cowboy in town.

"It's encouraging to see that off the back of the Commerce Commission's market study into the industry there are consortiums out there that would consider entering the market," says Consumer NZ CEO Jon Duffy.

Northelia Version 1.4 describes itself as a group of experienced, done-it-before operating entrepreneurs who have worked in the supermarket industry.

The group members wished to remain anonymous, saying their executives, investors and board need "day jobs".

But it's reported 2Degrees founder Tex Edwards is among them and this isn't his first rodeo.

"Edwards has a background of doing this in other industries so it's greatly encouraging to see," Duffy says.

In 2009 2Degrees broke into the telecommunication sector then owned by the duopoly of Spark and Vodafone.

Its tagline: "Fighting for fair since 2009."

And it appears the Northelia group have the same idea.

They say they'd be confronting the duopoly and can mobilise a capital base of more than $1 billion if the Commerce Commission forces existing supermarkets to sell 200 of their stores.

Earlier this month, Foodstuffs North Island agreed to release 68 of their leases.

"We have not been using it for some time now and we're prepared to remove all the historic ones," Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin says.

But Consumer NZ says forming a third supermarket group won't be easy.

"There are significant hurdles to overcome," Duffy says.

They say the Government may need to step in to make some room for competition. But if it goes ahead shoppers could be looking forward to cheaper grocery bills.