Chris Hipkins says Government 'doing quite a lot' to improve supermarket competition as it prepares to launch banking sector probe

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins remains confident the Government's grocery reforms will make a significant difference as it prepares to launch a probe into the banking sector.

Newshub understands a Commerce Commission market study into New Zealand's banking sector is set to be announced later on Tuesday.

New Zealand's retail banks' profits rose to a record $7.2 billion last year - up $1b from 2021.

But critics have said the Government's most recent probes into other sectors - including supermarkets - haven't made it any cheaper for Kiwis. 

Last year, the Government announced it would be establishing a Grocery Commissioner to report on competition in the sector and identify rip-offs. 

That came on the back of a Commerce Commission market study that found the grocery sector "working well for New Zealand consumers", with smaller retailers unable to compete with the two major players - Foodstuffs and Countdown.

"Is it worth doing another one? Because I imagine it's going to cost millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to do this," said AM host Ryan Bridge, a former political reporter. "You haven't been able to name one example of where things have got cheaper because of one of your studies," Bridge told Hipkins.

But the Prime Minister disagreed.

"It's early days," Hipkins told Bridge. "In areas around supermarket competition, we're doing quite a lot.

"If you've got a lack of competition in the market, you don't always turn that around overnight. So, in the case of supermarkets for example… we had a really clear evidence base [where] a lack of competition was established, that's not going to turn around overnight - we're not going to suddenly have big, new players everywhere over the country."

He said the Government was taking action to ensure the supermarket sector was heading in the right direction.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

"[We're] opening up wholesale supply chains, for example, to allow new competitors to enter into the market - that work is underway."

Hipkins said the Grocery Commissioner would also help the sector.

"There are things that you can do, as a result of these studies, that do make a difference."     

However, there's been no notable difference yet. Statistic NZ announced on Wednesday food price inflation was at 12.1 percent year-on-year.

Hipkins, meanwhile, would not confirm the exact nature of the latest market study - with more details to be confirmed later.