This is the first post of the new year, so it seemed appropriate to hop on a hobby-horse, the indiscriminate use of the word “iconic”, in all sorts of situations.

My beef today is specific to the food industry.

The call to receivers to sort out “Rosella” has created a lot of noise, of the “another “Iconic” Australian food business goes to the wall” type. 

Whilst it is true that the Rosella brand has been around for a long time, it has not been owned by an Australian company in my memory in the food industry, which is disturbingly long. Rosella was owned by the British/Dutch multinational Unilever for many years, who sold it to the Dutch trader Stuart Alexander  probably 15 years ago. They failed to give it the breath of life, and on-sold it to the South African group that ultimately owned Gourmet Food Holdings, as their vehicle to assemble  food brands. They also owned Aristocrat, which in my memory was owned by an Australian family who actually cared about their products. Problem was they had a factory in Chatswood in Sydney, now prime real estate, and insufficient marketing grunt to maintain retail real estate,  

So, what makes an “Iconic Australian business”?

I might be persuaded that “Rosella” was an Australian brand, as you could not buy it anywhere else, but certainly not that it was an iconic Australian brand, or Australian business, which is the other epithet often used.

To me “iconic” has a number of dimensions:


Market share, but more importantly than share, the potential to shift markets due to consumer trust and loyalty.

Consistent delivery of value to customers/consumers.

Over time, it has managed to evolve so that it accurately reflects the core proposition of the brand in a manner relevant to the customers/consumers of each of those times.

On all but the first of these parameters, Rosella fails the test. Ask yourself “who will miss Rosella?” and the real answer is very few.

So why the hand-wringing?

Simple. The demise of Rosella in another example of the decimation of the Australian food manufacturing industry, particularly the small manufacturers. Here we are, in a geographically enviable location close to the burgeoning Asian markets, with advanced R&D, skilled workforce, high and transparent standards, able to produce commodities at world competitive costs, but we are failing to feed our own people from our own resources, huge amounts of manufactured food is now imported, (more than $10 billion last year)  and the trend is accelerating.

We have White papers dealing with the Asian century and our place in it delivering cliches, and task forces examining the woes of the food manufacturing industry, and making grand recommendations, but not much activity that is useful, so I guess we have to kid ourselves to feel better.

Happy new year, I hope it is “iconic” for you.