Shocking reason Woolworths shelves stripped bare

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A Woolworths in Sydney's Neutral Bay had shelves of fresh produce stripped bare on Thursday and the reason behind the sudden absence has left shoppers shocked.

Products including popular fruit and vegetables like avocado, apples and cucumbers, as well as pantry staples like coffee beans, muesli, cereal, almonds and fruit juices were all noticeably missing from the store, but it's not a resurgence of panic buying behind the scarce products.

Woolworths activation to illustrate the impact of bees and produce shopper looks confused in Neutral Bay store
Woolworths shoppers in Neutral Bay were left baffled by rows of empty shelves this week. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The store's products were deliberately removed by Woolworths in a bold bid to hammer home the significant role bees and insects play in Australia’s food supply, and the dangers of their dwindling populations.

In Australia, recent events such as drought, bushfire and flood have decimated floral resources which provided nectar and pollen required for healthy bees.

empty woolworths shelves bee population statement
Natural disaster has put the bee population into jeopardy, and our food supply. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

The bushfires of Summer 2020 alone destroyed 15.6 million hectares of forests which provided bees with nectar and pollen vital to their survival and pollination.


In an announcement, Woolies pointed out that 65% of Australian horticultural and agricultural crops require honey bees in order to pollinate. That checks out to more than $14 billion contributed to the economy each year.

Woolworths Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Hicks said he hoped the stark stunt would show people how much their personal food supply would be affacetd.

“As the Fresh Food People, we’re passionate about providing millions of Australians access to the fresh food they love most," he said. "What many people don’t realise is how much of our food supply relies directly on pollinating bees."

A tray of bees instead of produce makes bee population statement in Sydney Neutral Bay Woolworths
The publicity move hammers home the vital role bees play to our food, and the danger if they are wiped out Photo: Dallas Kilponen.

“Our goal here is to start a conversation in Australian homes about what a supermarket without bees would look like and how their impact goes far beyond just fruit and vegetables. However, if we take small actions to support bees and pollination today, we can create a better tomorrow and prevent this from becoming a reality.”

Trevor Weatherhead, Chair of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, said now more than ever we need to facilitate beekeepers efforts to keep the population strong.

Empty Woolworths fresh produce shelves make statement about Australian bee population impact food supply
To avoid the dark reality Woolies put on display, there are key things we can do to nurture out bee populaton. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

"With the ongoing drought and the impact of the bush fires it is now more critical than ever for beekeepers to have access to national parks and forests to help provide adequate floral resources," he says.

As for what you can do about the frightening problem, Leisa Sams, General Manager of Hum Honey, says if you have garden space, use it to provide a good environment for bees.

“As a beekeeper, the most common question I’m asked is “what can people do to help bees?'" she says. "Simple answer is to plant bee-friendly plants in your garden so honeybees have year-round access to pollen and nectar producing forage."

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