A consistent message and quality product have paid dividends for Annamaria Ogilvie and her food business, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.
PRODUCT consistency and a dedication to the brand have brought Annamaria Ogilvie and her business a long way in the past 16 years.
When she launched Ogilvie and Co in the 1980s Ms Ogilvie hoped to emulate the success of UK giant Fortnum and Mason, but she never thought they would end up being one of her customers.
Last year the UK foods company bought a range of Ms Ogilvie’s traditional food products, which still carry the same label she designed 16 years ago.
David Jones, Myer and other retailers have stocked Ms Ogilvie’s products for years.
The company, Ogilvie and Co, has grown from a humble 12-product local operation into an exporter of over 150 products.
Myer has just put its Christmas order in – valued at $70,000 – and earlier this year Australia’s oldest family business, Lionel Samson and Son, bought a majority shareholding in her business.
Ms Ogilvie believes her retailing and marketing success is the result of dedication to her product and brand.
“They key in Ogilvie and Co is that we have never shifted from, the image of home made and we still make the bottles of jams using the same preserving technique we did 16 years ago,” Ms Ogilvie said.
“We make batches of 23 and 24 even though the order might be for over 1,000. Some businesses have gone down the mass produced line and the image and the brand gets more exposure but the brand changes.
“I could have gone to filling machines and reduced labour costs and made higher profits but I’ve always stuck to using traditional preserving because that is our brand. It would have changed otherwise.”
Ms Ogilvie is a trained graphic designer and personally designed the Ogilvie labels and packaging, which has not changed in 16 years, further cementing brand equity.
“People still say it looks great but it doesn’t look like a 1980s design and that is my best achievement, from a graphic design point of view,” she said.
“What designers want to do is design something that is timeless.”
Ms Ogilvie said presentation followed by good produce was the secret to a long-lasting food brand.
“Presentation is the key to getting the product off the shelf,” she said.
“If someone doesn’t like the product they won’t buy it again. So presentation is important, but the content is also what gives food brands longevity.”
Ms Ogilvie also used a retail outlet to push her brand in the marketplace and create greater awareness of her company’s traditional preserving techniques.
“When I set up my first retail shop I hired a sign writer to do the artwork and back then it was a dying art form and all the letters for signs began to be cut using machines,” Ms Ogilvie said.
She later sold the retail outlet to focus on wholesaling and said Ogilvie and Co’s main form of advertising, aside from product placement and logos, was the use of traditional communication.
“Our way of advertising was through old-fashioned word of mouth. We didn’t take out big ads because we couldn’t afford it.”
When Ms Ogilvie first began making her range of preserves she decided to target the top department store chains and gourmet outlets to make sure her product was positioned well in the market.
“After six months of producing I went to George’s in Melbourne. It was an old department store that all the rich people went to,” she said. “You could go there and get hand embroided towels from England and they had a top end gift section that sold some imported food.
“I thought I would start at the top and work my way down.
“In WA I went into Napoleon Street in Cottesloe and walked into all the gift shops to show them my product.”
Ogilvie products are now sold in the UK, Taiwan and Singapore.
“It’s hard marketing overseas because the brand name doesn’t mean much,” Ms Ogilvie said.
“But they have a lot of paranoia about genetically modified foods and they want things to be organic. Because of Australia’s perceived cleanliness our products can sell even though they are not organically certified.”
In all, 90 per cent of Ogilvie and Co’s products are sold in Melbourne and Sydney.