If you’re like many young university students in Australia, you’ve probably noticed the rising expense of living. Groceries are not the exception in this case, with thousands of people struggling to have access to a balanced diet with the remainder of their paycheck.

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Cost-of-living expenses have been the highest they’ve ever been since the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax 20 years ago, with financial experts suggesting that underlying reasons are attributed to elements such as the pandemic, the Ukraine and Russia war sanctions, and other external influences. These economic surges are hitting Generation Z the hardest, with young people aged between 18 to 28 as the most significant demographic, having to cut back on spending and experiencing severe financial stress. Many young people entered the workforce during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 period and faced decreased working hours or loss of jobs. Because of this, Gen Z is often reported as strapped for cash, as one of the generations with the most negligible savings. Because of these factors, Gen Z is regarded as significantly enjoying social and work life less, as compared to two years ago, due to the economic burden – which is now hitting hard.

Australia’s largest supermarket chains – Woolworths and Coles – have raised their prices by an average of 8% annually, with some products doubling that. Some suggest that these price increases could be considered price gouging regarding the inflation of their profit margins and the context of customers losing their bearings on what costs are deemed reasonable (and what aren’t). The Coles/Woollies grocery power duo, only makes this worse, as the supermarket sector remains unregulated and uncompetitive – this means that there are no significant demands for increased access to the products and services they provide, so they are free to raise prices as they desire.

Coles’ iconic ‘Down Down’ campaign has been criticised as tone-deaf in light of this, with so-called ‘special’ prices being higher than standard prices from a year ago – how can Coles continue to run this campaign if it doesn’t appear effective to its consumers? The business has hit back at the widespread discontentment, arguing that profits place it in a position to invest in its Flybuys and Great Value program. However, this response highlights how much Coles has misunderstood its core public and their strain, especially while reporting record-breaking profits.

Online users have also begun re-circulating clips from the ‘Feed your Family’ Coles ad campaign from 2017 – headed by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, they promoted groceries from Coles that would make a meal under $10 for a family of four. If you’ve been to any grocery store in the past year or so, you would know that this most likely isn’t the case anymore (thanks to inflation). It’s reached a point of severity where recipes like cottage pie have had a 138% price increase, going from $10 to $23.80.

Of course, Gen Z – one of the generations most affected by these price hikes – have responded and made their call to action as best as they know: comedy as a coping mechanism. TikTok users have spoofed the videos, mixing the ad clip with a $10 meal of their own – such as a whole plate of cheese, with a 700-gram bag of Tasty shredded cheese coming in at a whopping $10.


They’ve also come up with other affordable meals, such as Nutella on bread.


Coles’ tone-deafness has only been further showcased in their response to this TikTok trend, where Coles Express made their spin on it in a video where a manager showed how he could make a $10 meal for himself with a sausage roll, a muffin, and a large coffee.

The video promptly received backlash for its insensitivity towards the cost-of-living crisis and missing the point of the entire trend. Despite the satirical tone of the videos above, they highlighted a genuine reality for many young Australians – not being able to afford three meals daily. There is a reason why university programs like UQ’s Kampus Kitchen are so heavily depended on and utilised by their students, and mass corporations like Coles have missed the mark on that by not being in touch with their audience.