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The small print of Woolworths

"Australia's go-to for delicious food inspiration" Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine

Apologies for taking so long getting to Woolworth's Fresh Ideas Magazine, in response/comparison to the Coles Magazine. I have had it for a while but have lacked the energy/inspiration - call it what you may - to do the equivalent post to the one on Coles.

Like my article on the Coles Magazine I fear it will be a bit all over the place, but let's see what I found.

So let's begin with the publishers. When you read the small print here - which is on the front page, not the back as for Coles - you will find that Woolworths is the publisher, not an external agency, although the 'Production House' is Hogarth Australia a subset of Hogarth Worldwide.

Hogarth Australia does not appear to have a website of its own - just a LinkedIn and Facebook page, so I have not really been able to tell whether the people listed as the various contributors are Woolworths or Hogarth Staff. Let's assume Woolworths which makes it a more in-house production number. Maybe that explains, to my eyes anyway, the slightly lower production values. Which is not to say that it is not a professionally produced magazine. Maybe it's also that I recognise some of the names of the 'arty' people involved in the Coles Magazine from other classy magazines and not those in the Woolworths production. But I guess the 'look' and how it appeals to you is a highly subjective thing and the look also depends on factors such as appeal to a particular demographic, and the message you want to convey. For me the dominance of the colours of green and blue - normally my favourite colours - is not a plus for Woolworths.

Still on Hogarth - their 'mission statements' are rather more hard-edged if you like than the Medium Rare (Coles' publisher) ones with their emphasis on storytelling. Here are Hogarth's:

"Big ideas demand smart delivery (intelligent)

In a constant push for better (relentless)

Creative can always work harder (outcome driven)

The next new thing is only a moment away (innovative)

We combine craft, insight and technology to bring your creative work to life."

But back to the magazine. In general I thought that Coles - for its own particular marketing reasons - was overall trying to project a notion of community - a Coles community of customers and the place of Coles within the community via all the good things it does - or at least wants us to know it does.

Woolworths, it seems to me slightly changes the focus to its own community - to its staff and to its suppliers. Here and there throughout the magazine they will give you something like this - these are on the front page. I guess these are supposedly recommendations for particular recipes from the individuals involved. Within the magazine you also get photos here and there with a few words from either other staff or the producers - or just a few words. But never from a customer. They do invite participation from their readers, but it's a bit vaguer and there are fewer options - we do not know which social media they use for example. They merely say:

"Tell us about your favourite family dish or any recipe you've tried from the magazine on social media using #myfreshidea"

And there is no cookery club, but they do tell you when the next magazine is coming out on the front page.

Almost the first double spread is where I learnt a new word: Listicle, which apparently means:

"a piece of writing or other content presented wholly or partly in the form of a list."

It's a feature that they have in every edition. A series of little things around a theme. This month the theme was 'Globetrotting', I'm not quite sure what the overall purpose of the spread is, but it's often quite entertaining. It's a bit like my odds and ends occasional posts I suppose, and in fact I have often featured things in those posts from here. This month on this second page, they advertise a later feature in the magazine - how to make béchamel sauce, go with the trend of baking brie, suggest a toasty with soup and suggest a Japanese style snack which is actually quite original I think. The other page, had a Mexican style hot chocolate, a beetroot hummus, a sort of affagato and asian stock - with a recommendation from a staff member. It's actually one of my favourite parts of the magazine. Little things. And now I have a new word - Listicle - next title for my odds and ends post.

With all of their recipes they do a couple of things - not very differently from Coles. There are little icons, shown here, which tell you what the icons say. In the small print at the beginning of sections which stress budget considerations there is an explanation of what 'under $5.00 a serve' actually means. For example the prices are based on NSW and home brands where possible. There are also explanations (in small print) of what nutritionally approved means. In addition each recipe will have a little label or labels under its heading telling you things like vegetarian, dairy free, high in fibre and so on. The recipe index at the back also has symbols telling you these things. This is a tick for Woolworths because Coles doesn't do this. Coles, like Woolworths, give you a nutritional breakdown - how much sugar, fat, etc. in the recipe but not necessarily all the other stuff. Vegetarian, Gluten free and Vegan are often highlighted but not consistently.

And of course, like Coles they tell you how long it will take you and how many it will serve.

The other thing they do when presenting some of their recipes - many in fact but not all - is to lay out a double page spread with a photograph of the finished dish on one side and step-by-step pictures, plus pictures of what you need on the the other side. As here:

This one is from the budget section and so the price per serve is shown. Elsewhere they might point to a recipe being budget friendly with that little icon, but they don't tell you how much per serve. And on just about every recipe there is some little bit of information - loaded with vegetables, serving tip, etc. Actually sometimes the two parts are not side by side which is a bit frustrating I find. Picture on one page - recipe somewhere else. But then Coles does that too.

Here and there there are also QR codes which will lead you to further recipes. Again, Coles does this too, but not with QR codes I think. They tend to refer you to the internet. So perhaps not as digital savvy? But then again people like me are not really with QR codes as yet.

The magazine is, of course, littered with ads - and in a way we should be grateful because this is how it comes to be free. Some of the ads are for their own stuff - like one in this edition that shows a picture of several own brand items and underneath declares:

"Proudly Australia's healthiest Supermarket Own Brands, 4 years in a row*"

The asterisk is a reference to the small print that tells you that the award is from "The George Institute for Global Health ... Ranking based on mean Health Star Rating compared with Coles, Aldi and IGA." I think it's a reputable organisation so congratulations, are in order I suppose.

Like Coles their advertising also includes recipes presented in the same manner as their own, but actually being an advertisement for one of their suppliers. Which is a tiny bit misleading and sneaky.

In the what's in season section - also in Coles - they always feature one of their farmers who always has a few things to say about his particular product. This time it's capsicums and is headed by a warm and fuzzy photograph of a farmer and his son. I looked them up and it is indeed a sort of family business - four different families who combined their assets to form NQ Fresh which also grows melons and mangoes. So we get several capsicum recipes, followed by a briefer reference to what's in season - limes, potatoes, avocados and navel oranges, followed by another ad/recipe/promotion for Dairy Farmers, which is full of nostalgic photographs of happy dairy farmers, their cows and their children against a glowing sunrise and a little story about who they are. Warm and fuzzy again.

Just to show how similar both supermarket magazines are - in the centre of each of this month's editions is a smaller magazine completely dedicated to those advertiser recipes and both focussed on winter. Great minds think alike? Maybe it's a case of unoriginal minds think alike?

You can probably tell that I'm just working my way through the magazine, and I'm nearly done. The next session is mildly educational if you don't know very much about cooking, and honestly I applaud both of these magazines for encouraging the less sure cooks to have a go. They don't even have to pay for the advice - the big food companies and the big supermarkets do. So this month Woolworths is featuring canned food, grains and bottles of sauce - pantry stuff. This is one half of the double-spread on grains, and note yet another staff member saying her bit. The tips are not that inspirational, but it's a good try. As are the few pages on how to make 'creamy béchamel' a little further on. Basic but we all have to start somewhere. Once upon a time I didn't know how to make béchamel either, and I didn't have a free magazine or Delia or Jamie and endless TikTokers showing me how on the internet.

Overall I am indeed less attracted to the Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine. I think this is mostly due to the quality of the photography - not bad at all I have to say but not in quite the same class as the Coles Magazine. It's also the quality of the recipes. I usually find at least one recipe in a Coles Magazine that I might try - this month's has heaps. With Woolworths it's rarer.

Really though it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. I could be nasty and say it's a cynical exercise in marketing and fundamentally it is, but if in an attempt to achieve the aim of getting more people into your store than the competition, you actually show the less confident mothers (and fathers) of the world that they can easily put a gorgeous dinner on the table quickly, cheaply, and easily then all power to them.

There is also no mention of any of the good works that I have no doubt Woolworths does in the name of sustainability, environment, community and charity. Which is sort of weird. Why not? It leaves me wondering whether they do sponsor things. I know they do environmental and sustainability things, but even that is not quite as obviously trumpeted as it is in Coles.

Sometime I'll have a look at the Aldi magazine but it's not at all the same thing - it's really just a catalogue. IGA is not near here. Maybe I'll call into our nearest one in Templestowe next time I pass by to see if they have one. I don't think they do.


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