Is Aldi really the big reason Dick Smith’s Foods is closing? Picture: Ross Swanborough
Is Aldi really the big reason Dick Smith’s Foods is closing? Picture: Ross Swanborough

C’mon Dick, your food fail isn’t Aldi’s fault

OPINION

ENOUGH Dick, seriously. It's getting old now.

Aldi didn't do in your look-a-like version of Vegemite, neither did imports. The reason your food company failed was because people didn't want to buy your products.

It really is that simple.

Given a choice between Vegemite and Dick Smith's Ozemite, Australians voted for the original, not the knock-off spread with the same colours and practically the same name.

Not even a Dick Smith hat could persuade Australians to buy Ozemite spread in sufficient numbers.
Not even a Dick Smith hat could persuade Australians to buy Ozemite spread in sufficient numbers.

On Thursday, Smith made what he said was the "saddest decision of his life" to close Dick Smith Foods. The firm made a collection of Dick Smith branded products from Ozemite and Ozenuts peanut butter to Bush Foods cereals that, let's be honest, Australians never really warmed to.

Why? Well listen to Smith and it's all German supermarket Aldi's fault because the supermarket chain "basically forced us out of business".

"I'm closing it down now when times are good," Smith said. "It's a decision forced on me because most people just want the cheapest prices, and the cheapest prices will always come from overseas."

Aldi is to blame. The shoppers are to blame. The only person whose fault it isn't, it seems, is Smith himself. But surely, he must now take some responsibility?

The reasons people buy what they buy are complex. Sure, price is a big factor, but price doesn't explain how the Australian owned A2 milk, which could not be described as cheap, has turned the dairy market upside down.

People have flocked to A2 for its marketing and health message.

Australian owned A2 milk has been a huge success. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy
Australian owned A2 milk has been a huge success. Picture: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Dick Smith marketed himself with aplomb, but isn't it possible he didn't do as good a job marketing his actual products?

Mr Smith said the "nail in the coffin" was learning Aldi had been voted the most trusted brand in Australia.

Right, so to be clear, a survey made you shut down your entire company? Yet Woolworths - which wasn't even in the top 10 most trusted brands - managed to make a none-too-shabby $1.5 billion last year. They don't seem to be closing down.

As for the fears about foreign foods, that seems a bit redundant too. The firm was set up to create true blue versions of Aussie food favourites owned by overseas giants - think US company Kraft's custodianship of Vegemite for instance.

But now Vegemite, and what was Kraft peanut butter, are back in Australian hands and part of Bega Cheese. Just as dinky-di as Dick then. In the process, the entire raison d'être of Ozemite and Ozenuts has vanished.

Dick Smith’s Ozemite has something of a resemblance to its bigger, and now Aussie-owned, rival. Picture: Calum Robertson
Dick Smith’s Ozemite has something of a resemblance to its bigger, and now Aussie-owned, rival. Picture: Calum Robertson

Smith never gave shoppers enough other reasons to pick up his brands besides the incessant cries to "buy Australian".

When it comes to food, he's been a one-trick pony and shoppers are bored of the trick.

Indeed, he became too associated with the brand. And that's dangerous if you decide to take on a political role. Witness this week's demise of the Ivanka Trump fashion line. Perhaps people who didn't agree with Smith's strident views on limiting immigration and association with Pauline Hanson then gave his spreads a wide berth too.

He actually gave many people a reason NOT to buy his foods.

Mr Smith rails against Aldi - they are a tough competitor - but look closely at his products and they have some very Aldi-like qualities. They look just like big brands. Ozemite apes the red and yellow of Vegemite; while his jams bear a striking resemblance to the French St Dalfour jam.

Mr Smith's plan seems to have been to make his products as similar as possible to big brands, some foreign owned, amp up their Aussie credentials and hope we'd all come flocking.

Instead, Australia seems to have said, "Thanks but I'll stick with the brand I know."

That's not to say Smith hasn't highlighted some of the less appealing traits of Aldi. These include its secrecy and, because it's a family-owned firm (unlike Coles and Woolies) it doesn't file full financials.

But to suggest that everything Aldi does only benefits a reclusive family holed up somewhere near Dusseldorf is wrong. Just ask all the Aussie farmers supplying Aldi - more than the number supplying Dick Smith Foods I'd guess.

The demise of Dick Smith Foods, and the jobs of the three people who work for the company directly and yes hundreds of others in firms that supply to it, is sad. A competitor has left the supermarket shelves.

Yet in the decades since Smith's products have been available, other Aussie-owned brands have flourished - be that five:am yoghurts, Beerenberg jams or Maggie Beer's range including stock, oils and pastes.

Maybe rather than blaming others for his company's demise, Mr Smith could look to how these Aussie brands have thrived.

The answer is that, unlike Smith, they haven't simply berated shoppers for having the sheer cheek to not buy their products. Rather, they gave consumers a positive reason to purchase.

Blame Aldi if you will Dick, but maybe some of the blame lies a bit closer to home.



This Warwick woman was saved from terminal cancer, twice

premium_icon This Warwick woman was saved from terminal cancer, twice

FRIDAY, April 13, 2018 was a truly scary day for Brenda Barlow

EPIC EARL: Car parts transformed into massive mailbox

premium_icon EPIC EARL: Car parts transformed into massive mailbox

Steve was asked to buy a mailbox, he picked up his welder instead

Six-year-old dives in for huge hug with sporting hero

premium_icon Six-year-old dives in for huge hug with sporting hero

How a first-time Warwick footy player got to meet his favour player.

Local Partners