Food retailing in South Africa remains competitive with the leading players “scrapping” for market share, the CEO of Spar’s operations in the country insisted today (1 July).

Wayne Hook said he is unworried about the prospect of an investigation into South Africa’s grocery sector and the claims that the market is facing a concentration of “buyer power”.

On Monday, the South African Competition Commission launched its probe into the country’s major supermarket chains – Spar, Woolworths Holdings, Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite – for “alleged contraventions” of competition law.

Wholesalers Massmart and Metcash have also been pinpointed by the Commission, which plans to study various allegations including long-term, exclusive lease agreements and supply deals, as well as a sharing of information on price between the major chains.

Hook, however, dismissed claims of collusion between the rival supermarkets. “Nobody is sitting around a table saying we’re going to fix the price of milk or yoghurt,” Hook told just-food. “We’ve got nothing to hide and I’ve told [the Commission] to visit us as soon as possible.”

South Africa’s food retail sector remains divided between the formal, “measured” market and the country’s traditional stores, Hook said. The measured sector accounts for “60-70%” of the market, with some 850 Spar stores throughout the country.

Hook acknowledged that there had been food inflation in South Africa but pointed to macro-economic factors including the weakening rand.