Australian vegetable and potato growers are questioning whether Mexican garlic farmers were asked to contribute hard-earned pesos to promote their produce during a controversial Woolworths marketing campaign featuring Jamie Oliver.
A photo obtained by AUSVEG appears to show Mexican garlic on sale in a Woolworths store in regional NSW, being promoted by paraphernalia linked to the Jamie Oliver campaign.
The campaign sparked widespread public anger in June when it was revealed Australian growers were being asked to contribute a 40c-per-crate of produce supplied levy to fund the initiative.
“Asking Australian growers to stomach paying this levy on top of marketing contributions they already make to the supermarket was bad enough,” said AUSVEG Communications Manager, Andrew MacDonald.
“To find Woolworths may also have been using the campaign funded by Australian growers to promote imported product from Mexico is even more offensive.”
“Either Woolies’ store merchandisers were taking a siesta at the wheel, or the spruiking of Mexican garlic further confirms suspicions the initiative was more about the supermarket’s bottom line than promoting consumption of Australian vegetables and benefiting growers.”
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
The revelation comes just days after the supermarket chain wrote to suppliers spruiking the ‘success’ of the Jamie Oliver campaign.
“For Woolworths to crow about the results of the campaign is a bit rich, especially when you consider the extraordinary public and social media backlash against the initiative once the retailer’s behaviour towards growers was exposed,” said Mr MacDonald.
“Once again, Woolworths has provided no details about how its suppliers will benefit from the campaign, or their returns on investment.”
“The supermarket giant is boasting that its campaign resulted in increased sales of produce, but if that includes imported products like Mexican garlic then the benefits to the local industry are debatable.”
“We note as well Woolworths’ ‘clarification’ in a media report yesterday that its touted boost in sales per customer visit did not directly correlate with an increase in overall fruit and vegetable sales.”
Mr MacDonald said if the campaign was as successful as Woolworths claimed, there was nothing stopping the company funding it without dipping in to Australian growers’ pockets – particularly if the money was being used to promote imported produce.