First published in New Zealand Herald 21 April 2015
Many companies effectively use the expat community as part of their Australian strategy. Earlier in the year Briscoes tapped into Kea’s Australian network to evaluate their business case for an online shopping site in Australia.
Others, like Anathoth Farm, also rely on that familiarity and New Zealand heritage to build customer connections with Kiwis outside New Zealand. That pull for home is a strong one and Anathoth’s wholesome image has worked in its favour on Australian supermarket shelves.
As consumers, most of us run on autopilot in the supermarket, reaching for brands that are top of mind and in the same spot every shopping trip.
Companies want their marketing to help them get into our consideration set – the top three brands we can quickly name in a category – and then leapfrog into first place.
Add to that the brutal Australian supermarket behaviour and you can see why FMCGs often employ some of the most sophisticated marketers around.
I’m not a big jam buyer, but Anthoth’s New Zealand heritage usually has me reaching for them on the shelf. So I was keen to hear how a boutique kiwi brand maintained its prominent position on Aussie shelves and some of challenges they’ve faced along the way.
I spoke with Danielle Esplin, Sales & Marketing Manager of parent brand Barker’s of Geraldine. She told me the expat link played a big role in the brand’s Australian success and is something they intend to focus on more. She also felt consumer interest in authenticity and moving to a simpler way of eating, traditional recipes and quality produce was swinging buyers in Anathoth’s favour.
“We’re pretty lucky that many kiwis live on that side of the ditch. That was our seed, but if you’re not going to appeal to mainstream Australia you won’t appear on shelf. We were one of the first to extend country of origin labelling and we tell people where our fruit and veges come from. That issue was never more apparent than during Nanna’s berry recall. People want to have a trusted product to feed their family and we’re all about telling people where the fruit comes from as it provides an element of trust.”
Country of origin labelling is a major debate that comes up frequently in Australia. In recent times New Zealand has – rightly or wrongly – been accused by Australian consumers of using overseas ingredients and labelling them as New Zealand.
Esplin is open about the fact that although Anathoth prefers to use New Zealand fruit, it is becoming more difficult. For example, although Anathoth have always sourced apricots from Central Otago, in 2014 a bee pollination problem resulted in a poor crop. So for the first time, the business was forced to import to meet demands. This, says Esplin, is a real risk to any business and especially where quality is concerned.
“It has been totally challenging to keep our products in the Australian supermarkets,” says Esplin “and it has become tougher since 2007. We have a small Australian base and it’s tough. We really believe some of it is a bit of luck – right time, right place and a category manager willing to give you a shot.”
The main skill, she suggests, is in maintaining presence on the shelf and taking every opportunity to build on it. If you don’t perform, the supermarket will be quick to drop and replace your product.
Despite being number one in New Zealand and growing in double digits, Esplin says replicating that in Australia has been very challenging. The company’s chutney range hasn’t had the success they hoped for in Australia and Esplin believes this is down to different tastes.
Whereas New Zealanders’ largely English background makes sweet chutneys familiar, Australians’ cultural influences have been broader and favoured the more savoury tastes of European cultures such as Italy and Greece.
Right now Australia is the second biggest market for Anathoth Farm though the business continues to be run from New Zealand. Esplin says with the current exchange rate it doesn’t make sense for them to set up an Australian office. Instead, brand building and marketing comes largely from media relations, social media designed to resonate with foodies and leveraging Australian awards to continuously build credibility in this market.