Fresh focus on produce

HEALTHY PLATE: In a win for Australian growers, Jamie Oliver has signed on with Woolworths.
HEALTHY PLATE: In a win for Australian growers, Jamie Oliver has signed on with Woolworths. Network Ten Network Ten

THE horticulture industry is hoping recent moves by the supermarket giants have signalled an end to the race to the bottom on prices, with a new emphasis on fresh produce.

Woolworths has a new partnership with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in what the company itself described as one that would "focus on bringing better, healthier, affordable fresh food to life for everyday Australians, giving them the information and confidence to prepare great tasting, fresh meals at home".

Coles has done something similar through the marketing of fresh products on MasterChef and this week hosted a Meet the Buyer day where farmers could speak directly with supermarket buyers.

For horticulture industry body Growcom, they are positive developments.

Chief executive Alex Livingstone said 96% of fresh fruit and vegetables sold in Australian supermarkets were domestic, so any move to promote fresh produce should increase demand.

"I think it started some time ago with the MasterChef program," Mr Livingstone said.

"If they featured a recipe with leek, they would sell out of that the next day.

"Woolworths took a leaf out of that book and have a really top name in Jamie Oliver.

"A lot of what he does is simple and easy, so hopefully people will rediscover the joy of cooking."

Mr Livingstone said there were some potential benefits in a three-year, $16.5 million deal between Woolworths and frozen vegetable producer Simplot.

Woolworths said it would absorb the cost and put domestic produce on the shelves at the same price as imported products.

Mr Livingstone said this could provide another market for the industry's seconds. There was nothing wrong with these seconds, he said, but their presentation was not good enough for supermarket shelves.

Topics:  farming horticulture supermarkets

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