Woolworths believes its backing of prime-time reality television program Recipe to Riches is driving stronger sales across its frozen food category and delivering a "halo" effect for other food brands, with customer loyalty to the supermarket group also strengthened.
A cooking show with a commercial twist, Recipe to Riches could potentially also bolster the standing of the supermarket's "Select" private label line, especially in terms of authenticity and branding, as all winning recipes from the TV show are sold under the Select livery.
Despite less than impressive ratings - Recipe to Riches has failed to cement a spot in the top 20 since it began six weeks ago - the prime-time show that takes home-made recipes and turns them into supermarket brands has been a winner for Woolworths in terms of getting "lapsed" shoppers through its doors and trying new foods.
Lizzy Ryley, general manager for customer loyalty at Woolworths and a judge on the TV show, said data collected since the program began revealed its association with Recipe to Riches had successfully tempted back shoppers who had been missing from its supermarkets for a number of weeks.
"There are a number of people who are fully engaged with the show and it's also bringing in a large percentage of customers who haven't shopped within the last four weeks at Woolworths," she said.
Ms Ryley, who joined Woolworths in 2006 and last year drove a relaunch under its "Australia's fresh food people" campaign, said there had been strong interest from viewers in buying each week's recipe winner.
"Even from the very first week we were selling very well," she said, adding that about half of the people buying the product were buying from week to week.
Each week for 12 weeks an everyday Australian's much-loved home recipe will be chosen by the TV judges to be stocked across all of Woolworths' 900 supermarkets as well as online. The best-selling product at the end of the series will score a long-term commercial deal with Woolworths.
So far the frozen food category has dominated the recipe contests (although other categories will follow) and Ms Ryley said there had been a significant uplift in general frozen food sales as each week a new Recipe to Riches product was placed in the freezer section.
"In frozen food, some [Recipe to Riches] products are selling five times more than the best-selling product in that category.
"There is a 'halo' effect as well that's happening around the brand leader in that category. I've had some more anecdotal feedback that some of our branded producers that have the highest-selling product [in the category] have in fact seen a [sales] increase in their product as well.
"It does get people trialling from a category that they might not normally shop in, which is a good thing for us," she said.
The reason for slapping the Woolworths Select branding on the supermarket packaging for each week's winning recipe was to show consumers Woolworths stood behind the quality of what was essentially a family recipe or zany idea from a foodie entrepreneur.
"It's to give it that reassurance that it is a Woolies-branded product. Our customers want to feel confident with the production process and that the product will be of a very high standard of quality.
"But we certainly didn't want Select to overpower the contestant's brand."
Many Woolworths stores have been selling out of their stock of Recipe to Riches products within a few days of them going on sale, but fearful of giving any clues to the potential winner at the end of the series, Ms Ryley would not comment on which recipes had been the best performers.