Woolworths deepens partnership with its Own Brand suppliers

Woolworths Supermarkets has one of the most recognised brands in Australia, with all own in-house and exclusive brands developed and managed by a business unit within the Woolworths Group, Woolworths Food Company, or FoodCo. It includes Australia’s and New Zealand’s leading supermarkets Woolworths and Countdown. They partner with dynamic suppliers to provide a range of own- and exclusive-branded products to meet the ongoing and changing needs of Woolworths and Countdown customers.

Their people have a passion for food and non-food, with integrated teams of buyers, developers, quality, welfare and sustainability specialists, customer insights and sensory specialists, chefs, nutritionists and marketers. They all work closely with suppliers to deliver the best mix of quality, taste, innovation, nutrition and value for over 30 million customers per week across Australia and New Zealand. By focussing on its customers and providing, FoodCo aims to maintain a sustainable and competitive offering for Woolworths, Countdown and its supply partners.

Clair Stevenson, FoodCo’s general manager for Longlife, and Morgan Oldridge, head of supplier development, have definite ideas about how they see the retail market in the coming months and years.

So, what does Woolworths see as the priorities for customers in the coming years and how suppliers can be a part of it?

“It’s a really interesting time for retail in Australia,” said Stevenson. “We’re excited to be working at the forefront of the macro trends shaping our customers’ needs and expectations into the future.

“It’s no secret that our customers care more about where their products come from, and that presents a huge opportunity for Own Brand to shine through for retailers. We tend to have a greater ability to understand and, importantly, tell the ‘paddock-to-plate’ story to our customers.

Whether that’s being able to tell customers about the farming families who supply our Farmer’s Own Dairy products to us, and the long-term relationships we have directly with those families, or the highest quality material and production standards of our Little Ones Baby Wipes.

“This need for information supports the trends of health, sustainability, responsible sourcing and animal welfare, all of which underpin what we do in FoodCo and how we approach the design and source phases of our product development process.

“At a broader level, we see our customers having less time to get things done. This includes eating healthily and maintaining a balanced diet. As a result, we’ve seen huge growth in our convenience sector both through our traditional channels and our new Metro format stores. Fresh is a particular focus for convenience but overall it’s about making healthy easy for customers.”

What does this mean for suppliers?
“At the outset, we should say Woolworths is very proudly a house of brands and always will be,” said Oldridge. “We believe in giving our customers choice. Our Own Brand products are always developed to meet specific, unmet customer needs that brands aren’t serving – whether it be on price, health, sustainability or provenance.”

As the company takes take a more strategic approach to the way it serves customers, it needs a more strategic approach to the way it sources products and invests in its supply chain. It’s in the process now of making significant changes to the way it deals with suppliers and the way it approaches supplier relationships.

“Our goal in FoodCo is to be suppliers’ most trusted and preferred partner, and the only way to achieve that is through deeper, more meaningful relationships with the right partners,” said Oldridge. “We have some amazing suppliers out there. By tapping into their capabilities and expertise, mixed with our customer mission and a longer term view to success, we believe we can unlock a huge amount of value and long term benefit for both customers and suppliers.”

With more requirements around product sourcing every day, such as ethical and responsible sourcing, animal welfare and sustainability, FoodCo is committed to ensuring it partners with people who excel in that field and can deliver long-term, sustainable competitive advantages to its customers.

“With all of this in mind, innovation is still the lifeblood that drives our business forward and excites and inspires our customers,” said Oldridge. “For suppliers who can bring true innovation to market, whether that be in product innovation, packaging, provenance, or technology, we’re keen to work with them to deliver that innovation in a sustainable way to our customers.”

And how do suppliers get in touch with the right person in FoodCo to talk about Own Brand opportunities?

“It’s never been easier to deal with FoodCo,” said Oldridge. “If a supplier wants to get in touch with FoodCo for the first time, simply visit www.supplywoolworths.com.au and complete our introductory capabilities survey so we can capture some basic information about your business. This centralised, secure database will then send that information to the buyer relevant to the category you’re best suited to, and they can be in touch if there’s an opportunity for us to do business together.

“The best thing about this centralised approach is ensuring we deal with our suppliers in a consistent and clear way. It also means the information only needs to be captured once, then updated each time something changes,

“If all else fails, send us an email at supplierrelations@woolworths.com.au and we can get in touch to help you along the journey.

“As we’ve said, Own Brand is a huge growth opportunity in Australia, and Woolies is on the forefront of that growth. Our purpose is to bring a little good to everyone, every day, and in FoodCo, we’re well positioned to work with suppliers to absolutely deliver that to customers.”