Economy

The sauce of Dick Smith’s discontent: Marketing exec sought for OzEsauce shake-up

Myriam Robin /

Food entrepreneur Dick Smith admits OzEsauce has been a flop.

“Commercially, it’s been a huge failure,” he told SmartCompany this morning.

Dick Smith Foods began selling the Australian made and owned tomato sauce after Heinz moved the production of its signature product to New Zealand.

But after eight months of being sold in supermarkets, OzEsauce commands just 1.6% of the market, with Coles saying they’ll remove it from their shelves in six months if its sales don’t improve.

“At the moment, it’s almost invisible on the shelves. You have this huge exposure for Masterfoods and Heinz, and if you look down on the floor, you might find two bottles of OzEsauce somewhere.

“We need a fantastic idea – something like ‘Come on Aussie’ – to get people to buy it.”

Smith is best known for Dick Smith Electronics, the eponymous retailer he founded in 1968. He stepped away from the business when he sold it to Woolworths for $20 million in 1982.

In a full-page ad in this week’s advertising trade press title AdNews, Smith admits he’s “lost the plot”, and calls upon a young, brilliant advertiser to help him get OzEsauce up to 5% of the market.

“I was once quite good at marketing – towing icebergs into Sydney Harbour and all that – however I’m clearly past it now,” Smith says in the ad.

“Surely there must be an Aussie advertising genius out there – a young Neville Corbett or [John Singleton] – who has a strong sense of patriotism – and can come up with an inexpensive form of marketing so every Australian family becomes a supporter.”

If sales of OzEcauce aren’t boosted, the ad continues, it could be the “writing on the wall” for Dick Smith Foods, “the beginning of all our products being removed from supermarket shelves and our company closes down”.

Last year, Dick Smith revealed to SmartCompany that Dick Smith Foods made $24 million in revenue, for a $10,000 profit.

It’s not the first time Smith has publically called for help.

In 2010, he founded the Wilberforce Awards. It awards $1 million in prize money to any Australian under 30 who can impress Smith by coming up with alternatives to growth – both in terms of the economy and the population – in Australia. Young anti-growth activists can’t apply – they have to be well-known for pushing the issue.

Three years on, he says no one has come close to winning it.

“That’s been a huge flop too. Most young people know nothing about it. And that’s because generally, the media is commercially run, and needs profit increases which depend on population growth.

“No one has become well-known enough for advocating [the issue]. So the million is still sitting there, accumulating interest. I think it’s at about $1.1 million now.”

In December last year, Smith took out an ad in the Australian Financial Review seeking lawyers to take on Mars for using Australian flags in its advertising, even though it is American owned.

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Myriam Robin

Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.

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