House brands have become an increasing focus for supermarkets in Australia. The first Coles house brand appeared as early as 1962 attached to a range of frozen vegetables. The Farmland brand, initially confined to the freezer, expanded to embrace a wide range of fresh and packaged products. Woolworths responded with their ‘Own Brand’ range in 1973.
By 1962, Coles had 306 food stores, of which 195 were operating under the name of Coles Food Market, and 111 under the name of Goodways in Newcastle, Goodlands in Canberra and Dickins in Victoria. That year, the first Coles New World Supermarket opened in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston. The Farmland brand of food products was available in all stores.
In 1962, advertising appeared featuring Farmland Green Peas – frozen peas selling for 3/1 ½ d (three shillings and a penny halfpenny or approximately 32 cents) for a one-pound (about 450g) packet. Farmland ice cream soon followed. By 1971 the Farmland brand has been extended to more products, including fresh meat, soft drinks, canned tuna and salmon, canned vegetables and crinkle-cut potato chips.
In 1975 Coles began active promotion of the Farmland brand. Full-page advertisements in the Australian Women’s Weekly read:
Every time you buy Coles New World’s Farmland food products, you can be sure you’re buying quality and value. Coles New World guarantee it…guarantee it 100%. Our guarantee means what it says. If every you’re not abolutely happy with Farmland quality and value…you get an exchange or your money back. Farmland quality and value plus Coles New World’s policy of everyday, storewide discount prices, means you can really save on food costs…
Coles continued to promote the Farmland brand for the remainder of the decade. Woolworths and Franklins also introduced house brand groceries. Woolworths Own Brand was replaced in 1983 by Home Brand, which included 150 products in generic black and white packaging, an echo of the Franklins No Frills range. Coles later introduced their Savings brand, also in black and white livery, to sell at price points below the Farmland products.
Reports in the mid-1990s suggested that the growth of home brands had stalled. Figures from an A.C. Nielsen survey in 1994 put the penetration of house brands at 10 per cent of households, down one per cent since 1991. The generics were seen as lower quality and perhaps carried a certain stigma. The arrival of Aldi in 2001, with its own “exclusive brands” was the trigger for a rethink on home brands. Woolworths introduced “Woolworths Select” in 2005. Abandoning the Farmland brand, Coles now uses its own name on packaging.
By 2017 research showed that around 25% of grocery purchases were home brands, with the leading categories being dairy, bakery, pantry products (canned foods), eggs and frozen vegetables. What’s more, one survey found 78 per cent of people thought house brands were just as good as branded products. The supermarket chains have been unapologetic about their aim to expand home brand products to more than 50 per cent of their sales.