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Image conscious Woolworths

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

"We are looking to create a “gardening movement” with our customers and plant over 70 million seeds. In this way, together, we are helping to replenish the natural environment that encourages pollination and is a program truly aligned to our Fresh Food People ethos."

Brad Banducci - CEO Woolworths

You may have noticed that Woolworths has recently launched it's latest 'collectibles' venture - a repeat of one they did last year, of individual pots of seeds of various vegetables, and this time flowers too. This is, of course, a major marketing exercise, and one designed to enhance their 'green' credentials', so it was also interesting to read in The Age last year that they are planning to split their liquor and hotels businesses off into a separate company come June.

Woolworths' tag line as we all know is 'Woolworths the fresh food people', but this has received a few knocks of late, most lately because of the furore over the large Dan Murphy's store in Darwin, close to an Aboriginal settlement. Spinning off the liquor business will apparently increase its Environmental Social Governance (ESG) credentials which is important because many large investment houses these days will not invest in gaming and liquor associated companies. Mind you Woolworths will still have a 15% stake in the new company so it's not entirely washing its hands of liquor and gaming. Nevertheless it has not been a good look for the company in recent times.

I actually applaud them for the seed 'collectibles'. So much better than little plastic bits and pieces. Mind you one should recognise that it is indeed a marketing exercise. You have to spend $30.00 in the store to get one little seed pot - pretty expensive seeds. And with your child or grandchild at your elbow nagging you to spend enough to get one, it's probably very successful. The aim being, of course, to get you to spend more than the $30.00 through that nagging and also to shop in Woolworths rather than Coles, because they have the seeds and Coles doesn't. Then there are the extras. like the seedling tray that they actively advertise on the discovery garden website. I wonder whether these items shown here are also available as well. They are shown on a page in the latest Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine. And I have to say that if you can't buy them in store, then that is another selling opportunity missed.

It's advertised widely in their stores and their magazine and then all we Woolworths customers got that 'personal' email addressed to us personally -'Dear Rosemary' mine began - from the CRO no less of Woolworths. This is an interesting outcome from COVID I think - the personal emails I mean. I really don't remember getting any before COVID and a regular email that updated on us what we could expect to find in their stores, and how the company was adapting to the government requirements. We were all in it together was the message.

Last time Woolworths did this they concentrated on herbs and vegetables. This time they have also introduced flowers - because:

"we’ve added a particular focus on bees and the important and fascinating role they play in our food supply."

Apparently 21 out of the 24 different plants you might get this time attract bees, and Woolworths have produced various educational tools aimed at schools to teach the importance of bees. All very worthy. It's a fine line isn't it? I mean they are indeed doing worthwhile things here. They have invested money in kits and also in junior landcare grants - 1000 of them - of up to $1,000 each to primary schools and kindergartens. plus a bonus $500.00 if the project is bee related. You can learn all about it here. Nevertheless their intentions are not, of course, entirely benevolent. Their aim is to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about the company, to get you to shop there exclusively, and also to buy enough so that you get those seeds. You could of course, just buy packets of seeds which would cost you much less than the $30.00 you have to spend to get one tiny pot of seeds. But we don't think that through do we?

Should we care if the motives behind all this environmental/ecological stuff are ulterior, if it gets children interested in growing their own food? And there's lots of supporting material to teach them what to cook with the finished products as well. After all this is a company that has committed to to get to 100% renewable energy by 2025, and net carbon positive by 2050 - which is a darn sight earlier than our federal government. Indeed there are a number of major companies who have made similar commitments. Well it's in their interest to do it, partly from a public relations point of view, but also partly, probably largely for economic reasons. They, unlike the government see the writing on the wall.

So yes overall a good thing. A clever marketing initiative - both the divestment of the liquor and hotels business and the marketing of the Discovery Garden initiative. Very clever. And if it does some good for the environment - all to the good.

The did say they expect to get 70 million - yes 70 million seeds planted through this scheme. Now that can't be bad can it? Maybe they should do it with trees too.


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