‘Local’ push continues: Coles looking for Victorian food suppliers, Woolworths’ Australian-grown sales soar

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th October 2013

Food producers across Victoria will have the opportunity to show their product to Coles’ team of expert buyers as the Australian supermarket group strives to source more locally-produced food for its stores. Meanwhile, Coles’ rival Woolworths says its customers are supporting Australian-grown produce through its Woolworths Select range.

Coles to ‘Meet the Buyers’

As part of a new initiative for Victoria, Coles will hold a dedicated ‘Meet the Buyer’ event at the Melbourne Showgrounds on Friday 18 October 2013.

The ‘Meet the Buyer’ event was instigated by Coles in an effort to source more local products after customer research showed that almost 70 per cent of Australians want more Australian made products.

Coles said it hoped to find new and exciting products to offer customers at around 200 Coles supermarkets across Victoria.

“Consumers across Australia are passionate about supporting local producers and Victorians are particularly loyal about home-grown products and local brands,” said Mark O’Connor, Coles State General Manager. “Increasingly, they want locally-produced food because they also consider it is fresher and safer,” he said.

“Coles is already a big supporter of Australian-made and grown, with more than 90 per cent of Coles Brand food and drink produced in Australia, along with 100 per cent of our fresh meat, milk and fresh fruit and vegetables when it’s in season,” Mr O’Connor said.

Coles said it currently stocked around 700 locally-produced Victorian lines, such as Kookas Coutnry Cookies, sausages from Farm Foods, eggs from Farm Price and cheese from Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory. The supermarket said it also stocked locally-produced food from suppliers such as Outback Spirit, Cobram Estate, Mildura Fruit Company and Devondale-Murray Goulburn.

“But we’re keen to meet the increasing demand for more locally-sourced food and we hope food producers in Victoria will take up the opportunity to show our team of buyers why their product should be on our shelves,” Mr O’Connor said.

‘Meet the Buyer’ history

Coles initiated the series of ‘Meet the Buyer’ events in mid-2012, with the first held in Adelaide in August 2012. Since then, events have been held in Perth, Hobart, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney, with dozens of new food producers signed as new Coles’ suppliers.

As a result of the ‘Meet the Buyer’ events in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, Coles said over 120 new local products were now stocked in its supermarkets, ranging from pasta, nachos, gelati, popcorn, spring water and pet food, to sushi, honey, salad dressing, fudge, nougat, custard and beverages. Discussions with additional producers in Queensland and New South Wales are still ongoing.

The team of Coles’ buyers will be at the Melbourne Showgrounds between 9am and 2.30pm on Friday 18 October 2013. Appointments are not necessary, but producers are encouraged to pre-register if possible, so they are guaranteed time with the Coles team.

To register, producers should email meetthebuyer@coles.com.au to nominate what products they wish to show and a preferred time. Producers should bring a sample of their product on the day.

When considering new local products, Coles said it takes into account a range of issues to ensure the products would be a success for customers, suppliers and its stores. These factors include ensuring the products meet quality and food safety standards, that there is consumer demand for the product, supply can be sustained, the business is commercially sound and that the process of getting the product to market is smooth and efficient. For fresh produce, Coles said it also needs to take into account safety and quality standards, and commitments with existing local growers.

Woolworths customers ‘supporting Australian-grown produce’

Meanwhile, Woolworths says its decision to source fruit for its Select branded canned fruit from Australian food processor SPC Ardmona has paid off, with sales of the brand up 38 per cent across Australia.

According to Woolworths, more than 890,000 cans of Woolworths Select Australian-sourced canned fruit have been purchased since July 2013.

Sales of the Select brand canned fruit increased 42 per cent in Queensland, 39 per cent in Tasmania and 35 per cent in Victoria. South Australia and the Northern Territory both saw an increase of 30 per cent, while New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory saw an increase of 28 per cent.

Woolworths said that stores in the surrounding areas of the SPC Ardmona processing site at Mooroopna in Victoria saw sales increase significantly. All Woolworths stores in the Shepparton, Albury/Wodonga, Benalla and Wangarratta areas recorded sales significantly higher than the national average, while sales in the Mooroopna store increased by more than 124 per cent.

“We are thrilled that our customers are getting behind this great Aussie product and supporting local growers,” said Jim Stephan, Woolworths Head of Canned and Frozen Goods. “They are clearly telling us that they want to support Australian producers and manufacturers,” he said.

“This is the first time in years that we have seen such a significant uplift in sales of canned fruit and it’s a clear message that Australian supply in integral to the success of such an iconic Aussie product,” Mr Stephan said.

The trend towards ‘local’ products in Coles and Woolworths stores is part of ongoing broader strategies for each of the supermarket groups. Australian Food News reported earlier in October 2013 that Woolworths had launched its ‘Farmers’ Own’ branded milk, sourced from dairy farmers in the Manning Valley in Northern NSW.

Coles is holding a 'Meet the Buyer' event in Melbourne