Cracking the competition

Worth $294.6 billion compared to New Zealand’s $46.6 billion, Australia’s retail market can offer big rewards to businesses who succeed in getting their products on its shelves.

Worth $294.6 billion compared to New Zealand’s $46.6 billion, Australia’s retail market can offer big rewards to businesses who succeed in getting their products on its shelves.

Worth $294.6 billion compared to New Zealand’s $46.6 billion, Australia’s retail market can offer big rewards to businesses who succeed in getting their products on its shelves.

But with a barrage of new suppliers contacting buyers every day in Australia, it can be hard for suppliers to even get an initial meeting. Buyers want innovative new products but typically they are very time poor.

Trevor Millar, export manager and director of Dunedin-based company Cowell’s Pavlova, is using creative methods to get in front of Australian buyers. The company previously exported to Australian supermarket giant Coles, and is looking to get back into the market.

Trevor and his wife Evelyn bought the South Island licence for Cowell’s Pavlova from its founders Ron and Audrey Cowell 35 years ago. By 2014 they had expanded the business to the rest of New Zealand, and they are now the leaders for branded pavlovas in this country.

Cowell’s recently started listing its line of pavlovas and meringues on RangeMe, an Australian third-party online platform providing buyers with quick access to key information about products in the categories they look after.

When a buyer is interested in a product, the supplier is automatically sent an email notification, which includes the buyer’s contact details so they can follow up directly.

“We already have contacts in Australia, but see RangeMe as a way to introduce our products to new buyers for around the same cost as a single visit to the market,” Trevor says. “It might just end up being put in front of the right person at the right time. If you don’t try you don’t win.”

Cowell’s is also pursuing opportunities to supply private labels – products manufactured or provided by one company for offer under another company’s brand. Competition in Australia between main retailers and the influence of new entrants has boosted interest in private labels across the retail industry.

Australia’s Private Label Manufacturing Association (PLMA) runs three to four networking events a year.

Says Trevor: “These PLMA networking events are where the buyer’s boss is, or the buyer’s boss’s boss. They’re a great way for smaller manufacturers to get a toe-hold in the market. If I rocked up at someone’s office they’d probably say, ‘Lovely to see you, leave your products on the counter, and goodbye’.

“But if you go over to them, you can say, ‘Look, I make the best pavlovas in the world, do you have a business card?’ You’ve got to be cheeky.”

He recently attended a PLMA meeting in Melbourne where the likes of Coles and Aldi were seeking feedback on suppliers’ experiences dealing with Australian buyers.

He also got to chat with other suppliers.  “You talk to companies who have experienced the same problems and have already solved them.” Few New Zealand companies take up this opportunity; in Melbourne he was the only New Zealander in the room.

Getting in front of buyers isn’t the only challenge; others include logistics and scale.

“It’s very competitive on price and you’re competing with Australian buyers with lower transport costs. These people aren’t interested in the price on the footpath outside your factory in New Zealand. You have to be very, very sure of your logistics costs.”

And of course Australia typically demands higher volumes.  “It’s not the corner dairy you’re dealing with! You have to be sure you can deliver in full and on time.”

But scaling up is also part of the reward. “Suddenly you can be doing as much business with one city in Australia as you were doing in the whole of New Zealand.”

Trevor Millar was awarded the New Zealand School of Export 2008 ‘Distinguished Exporter Award’ for his outstanding contribution to developing an iconic New Zealand brand.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is the
Government’s international business agency.
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 Where did it all begin?

Cowell’s boldly claims the pavlova for New Zealand as part of its company story.

“Like the Anzac biscuit, the earliest known books containing the recipe were published in New Zealand.

Professor Helen Leach, a culinary anthropologist at Otago University in New Zealand found a pavlova recipe in a 1933 Rangiora Mothers’ Union cookery book. Professor Leach also has an even earlier copy of the pavlova recipe from a 1929 rural New Zealand magazine.

Keith Money, a biographer of Anna Pavlova, wrote that a chef at a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, created the dish when the ballerina visited there in 1926 on her world tour.

The claim that it was an Australian invention states that the pavlova is based on a cake baked by Bert Sachse at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth on 3 October 1935. Sachse’s descendants believe he may have come up with the recipe earlier than that, since Anna Pavlova visited Australia in 1926 and 1929 and died in 1931.”


Australia v New Zealand

Retail market in Australia –  NZ$294.6 billion

6.7 percent online/55 percent  grocery

Forecast to grow at 3.8 percent CAGR

Retail market in New Zealand  – NZ$46.6 billion

5.3 percent online/50 percent grocery

Forecast to grow at 2.1 percent CAGR

Key trends in Australia’s retail market

• Retailers are becoming more dynamic – in their product ranges, segments, and locations

• Competition between main players and the influence of new entrants has boosted interest in private-label products

• Stores are diversifying in size and format. Demand is increasing for online grocery, which is growing by 13.6 percent each year.

• Innovation. Supermarkets are increasingly investing in technology to tap into consumer preferences and shopping habits

• Consumers are more conscious of what they are buying.  Trends toward healthy eating, organic products, and rising awareness about packaging and product origin have shifted retail focus

• Woolworths and Wesfarmers also dominate liquor retail with a 58 percent combined market share


Established 18 months ago in Australia, RangeMe now lists grocery, pharmacy, convenience and health food products. It is used by more than 500 buyers including Coles, Metcash, IGA, Aldi, Costco, Harris Farm Markets, Healthy Life, Chemist Warehouse, Terry White Chemists and City Convenience Stores.

Saatchi Goldwater, Business development manager, RangeMe, says: “Australian buyers are looking for product innovation and we know this is something New Zealand companies are well renowned for. It’s great to be able to bring export-ready New Zealand companies on board and help them broaden their retail connections in the Australian market.” 

For more info about RangeMe