Calombaris to advise on product development at Coles

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 30th July 2009

Coles has sought to further capitalise on the spectacular success of of MasterChef by hiring one of the show’s judges, renowned chef George Calombaris, to assist with product development.

The supermarket chain was the lead sponsor of the show, which surpassed all expectations and connected with the Australian public in a way many could not believe. They saw sales of key ingredients featured in the series surge by up to 200 per cent, with the show boosting the trend toward home cooking.

Coles Marketing Director, Joe Blundell, recently told the Daily Telegraph that the $10 budget challenge – a tie-in to Coles’ Feed Your Family for Under $10 campaign – had stimulated strong sales at the chain.

“We saw a definite uplift in sales of the key ingredients for these meals,” he advised, with sales of core ingredients from the winning dish, salmon and olive oil, climbing 117 and 198 per cent, respectively.

Mr Calombaris, who is behind famed Melbourne eateries The Press Club, Hellenic Republic and Maha, saw the popularity of his restaurants surge during the show and was approached during filming by the supermarket chain to act as an ambassador and join their product development team.

He praised Coles’ desire to create a more creative range to offer their customers.

Brand building

Mr Blundell reported that the decision to hire Calombaris was key in their plans to get a greater feel for the quality of the food they offer.

“I think it’s about the product development, it is about pushing the boundaries” he told The Australian.

The company has already hired a panel of over 1000 mothers to help with product development and reconnect with customers they lost through underinvestment in the brand. And they see Calomabris’ appointment as a further step in the brand building process.

“When I arrived (one year ago) one of the things that first struck me about the Coles brand was that we had drifted away from our customers and we hadn’t been listening to what they were telling us that they wanted,” Mr Blundell admitted. “I guess Australians had sort of fallen out of love with Coles.”

“The one thing that we are trying to do now is to make sure that we absolutely listen to customers and get them to love the brand again.”

Mr Calombaris will develop products for the Christmas range and host a number of cooking demonstrations.

Private label growth

Private label sales have been very strong for all Australian supermarket chains over the past year, outstripping growth of national brands over the same time period as retailers invest more in their own brands.

Coles has seen double digit growth of their private label goods following a revamp – which is ongoing and will benefit from Calombaris’ involvement – and Wesfarmers’ boss Richard Goyder this week said they saw no end to the current “strong growth” being recorded.