Aussie Farmers Direct is seeking to become the “third pillar” in the Australian online grocery market by competing with Coles and Woolworths head-on with its own online grocery platform, The General Store.
The fresh produce delivery service, which was established in 2005, says it’s ready to take on the supermarket giants with its new offering, which will provide Aussie Farmers Direct customers with access to grocery products, from confectionery and tea and coffee, to soft drinks, sauces, household cleaning products and pet food.
The General Store launched in Victoria this week, ahead of a planned national rollout. The platform offers free delivery with no minimum spend.
Building on the values of Aussie Farmers Direct, which seeks to promote and supply Australian-made produce, The General Store will indicate the “Australian-ness” of the listed products and shoppers will be able to sort search results by “Australian first”. The online store will also stock imported products, with 10% of the profits from these sales to be donated to the Aussie Farmers Federation.
In a statement, Aussie Farmers Direct chief executive Keith Louie said the platform aims to give Australian food and grocery manufacturers an alternative way to reach consumers, other than only supplying to Coles and Woolworths.
“With Aussie Farmers Direct and The General Store becoming the third pillar in the online grocery market, local grocery manufacturers are no longer in the grip of an online supermarket duopoly,” he said.
A sense of community
Harking back to the days when Australians shopped at their local general store, The General Store name and brand is intended to convey that same sense of being able to find “everything you need” in one place, says Aussie Farmers Direct spokesperson Jim Cooper.
But the concept of a general store is also associated with a “sense of community”, says Cooper, who told SmartCompany this morning the company is interested in working with small Australian food producers that may wish to stock their products on such a platform.
“We would certainly like it to evolve that way over time,” he says, adding that The General Store is closely aligned to the value and philosophy of Aussie Farmers Direct.
This is not the first time Aussie Farmers Direct has attempted to expand into the general grocery space, with Cooper saying The General Store concept was trialled a number of years ago in Victoria, although on a smaller scale.
“The platform and the way it interacted with the Aussie Farmers Direct site was not quite as elegant as we would have liked so we parked it for a few years until we found a way to bring it back,” he says.
This time round, Cooper says the priority was to ensure existing and new customers of Aussie Farmers Direct could continue to buy great Australian fresh produce, while also adding the basic staples they need to their shopping cart.
“We think we’ve done that at the moment,” he says.
“We will tweak the range as we go along and because we are online, we have the flexibility to add new ranges relatively easily … It’s not the final stage of the evolution of Aussie Farmers Direct.”
Cooper describes the Australian online grocery market as a new, but growing area in Australia, noting that market penetration in Australia is lower than in other countries, particularly the UK.
“There’s still big potential for growth in Australia,” he says.
“It does give other retailers the chance to compete against the big guys without having a national network of stores straight away.”