A marketing perspective on the ‘fresh bread’ bunfight between ACCC and Coles.

Original article published by Tony Cordato. Full length article including legal arguments and marketing analysis available on Lexology.


Marketing Commentary provided by Michael Field, Managing Director of Michael Field Strategic Marketing Consultants

The ACCC has commenced proceedings against Coles as it deemed the words ‘baked fresh’ were misleading and unfair to smaller bakery businesses. However it is likely that Coles had Woolworths clearly in its sights, rather than the smaller bakeries.

The grocery business in Australia is a $111 billion business (according to KPMG’s State of the Industry 2013’ report) with the top two retailers Coles and Woolworths collectively holding ~80% share of the total grocery market. This compares to 48% in the UK, 44% in France and only 24% combined market share of the top two grocery retailers in the USA.

In the grocery wars, there are only two viable positions to own in the consumer’s mind:

  1. ‘Fresh’ which is the centrepiece of Woolworths brand positioning with taglines such as ‘Australia’s Fresh Food People’
  2. ‘Value’ or ‘Price’ which has dominated Coles marketing efforts for decades with their ‘Everyday Low Prices’‘Save Every Day’ and more recently ‘Down, down. Prices are down’ taglines

To lay claim to ‘fresh’ through their bakery range is a clever marketing strategy by Coles as it dilutes the Woolworths position as ‘Australia’s Fresh Food People’ and helps Coles release themselves from the unwinnable market position of ‘price’ with new kids on the block Aldi and Costco fast becoming serious competitive threats on price.

By including par-baked products in their claim to ‘freshness’ Coles may not have picked the right execution legally, but the strategy of targeting ‘fresh’ has merit.

It is hard to determine how much damage this decision has done to the Coles brand, but it is unlikely to be very serious or long term. With ~80% market share between them, we can expect to see more tiffs in the aisles with the two giants fiercely fighting it out for their slice of the pie.

That being said, it is hard to imagine the ACCC will stop at ‘fresh’ bread. Much of the so-called ‘fresh’ food in supermarkets isn’t as fresh as the advertising would have you believe. ‘Fresh’ meat could have been butchered months ago, and those shiny red apples might have been in storage for more than a year.

So are meat, fruit and vegetables that have been stored for an extended period still truly ‘fresh’ ? According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Food Descriptors Guideline (2006): ‘fresh’ refers to food put on sale as early as possible and as close to the state it would be in at the time of picking, catching or producing; the term ‘fresh’ generally implies that food has not been frozen or preserved; and as some foods stay fresh longer than others, it is not appropriate to give specific guidance on all foods.

Emboldened by their win, expect to see ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables, juice, meat and flowers under scrutiny for their ‘fresh’ claims. What implications are there for Woolworths with the longstanding brand position and tagline as ‘Australia’s Fresh Food People’ ? What are the implications for every business that advertises fresh bread, fresh fruit, fresh juice or fresh produce?

We may not have long to wait before the ACCC aims at a fresh target!

For the full article, click here.

What is the Value of Values?

Since founding our marketing strategy consultancy in 2008, I have focussed my efforts on defining and communicating the underlying values of our company. Initially I did this to help me clarify my own values when dealing with complex issues, engaging new clients or appointing new team members.

Over the years our underlying values have not changed, but we have become better at identifying, naming and articulating them. Values are an integral part of our recruitment, induction and performance management programme. More recently our values are included in all client proposals.

What’s interesting is that each time we have reviewed and refined our definition of values, it has been the catalyst for constructive change in our culture and business. By expressing our values more clearly, we have been able to understand them more deeply.

The change has been positive. Some clients, team members or suppliers have bonded more closely while others have drifted away. No major earthquakes or rifts, just the natural growth and attrition healthy ecosystems experience in change.

So what are our values?

Honesty and Respect

We speak the truth and respect every person we meet

Generosity and Approachability

We are generous with our time and ideas, easy to contact and approachable on any matter

Intelligence and Creativity

We apply our best minds and thinking to the biggest opportunities to create performance-focused solutions

Purpose and Results

We are focused on the outcome and measure our success on the results we achieve


We have fun and enjoy the challenge of what we do – even the tough stuff! The larger the obstacle, the greater the reward

You will notice that many of our values are coupled together such as Intelligence and Creativity or Purpose and ResultsThis may be infuriating to the purist or linguist who is seeking dictionary definitions of each word. We have deliberately avoided getting hung up on this as the words only have meaning in the context of our culture, people and behaviour.

I am sure the definitions of our values will continue to evolve as we getter better at expressing them and living them.

What are your values and how have they created value for you and your organisation?

What is Your Value Proposition?

What is the value proposition of your product or service? When I say ‘value proposition’, I don’t mean the tagline or slogan such as ‘Just Do It’ for Nike’.

The way to think about your Value Proposition is to answer the following question: ‘What unique and compelling, advantage or benefit does my product or service offer customers that will induce them to part with their money for my offer over all of the other choices they have – including purchasing a competitors product or ‘doing nothing’ by keeping their money in their pocket?’

In today’s market, the promise of quality, service or value simply is not compelling or unique enough. We call it the ‘butchers claim’. Which butcher doesn’t say they have top quality produce, friendly service and offer great value?

These attributes are the minimum expectations from your customers. Digging down to truly understand your unique value proposition is confronting and it takes time. If you don’t have one or don’t make the time to discover your unique value proposition, the only choice your customers are left with is buying from whoever offers them the lowest price.

What is your value proposition?