Foodstuffs North Island refutes Commerce Commission's accusations of supermarkets making excessive profits

One of New Zealand's biggest supermarket companies is promising to free up land for competitors to buy.

Foodstuffs North Island owns more than 300 New World and Pak'nSave stores and says it's committed to encouraging competition to help drop food prices. 

The Commerce Commission's report into supermarkets accused them of making excessive profits at the expense of consumers and food suppliers. 

But Chris Quin, the chief executive of all 323 New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square supermarkets in the North Island, refutes that.

"We're not ripping Kiwis off," he told Newshub.

He said for every dollar spent in a supermarket, 68 cents goes back to the supplier, 13c is tax and the supermarket takes 19c. Fifteen cents of that is used for things like paying staff so it only profits 4c, he said.

"Look, our profits are not excessive."

But still, no competitor's been able to take on the duopoly that is Foodstuffs and Countdown. A big reason for that is a lack of land - big brands bank land and use leases that effectively ban the sale of any available land to competitors.

The Commerce Commission found companies had 200 restrictive and exclusive leases. Foodstuffs North Island has 68 of those contracts - but not for long. 

"We have not been using that practice for some time now, and we are going to remove all of… the historic ones," Quin said.

The commission also identified 200 unused sites that supermarket companies are holding onto, sometimes for decades, mostly in Auckland and Christchurch. 

If they don't develop it, the companies sell it for more than they bought it. Asked if Foodstuffs North Island was doing that for money, Quin said: "When we sell off land, we do it for [the] market price - yes." 

When it comes to prices, Foodstuffs admitted its promotions are too confusing. 

"That is fair and I think they have been too many and too complex and confusing, and this is a great opportunity to get onto fixing that," Quin said.

If they don't fix it, the Government could carve the industry up - either splitting its distribution and consumer businesses or forcing them to sell off stores.