‘Helping Australia Grow’: supermarkets, television cooking shows, and the strategic manufacture of consumer trust

Abstract

From farmers’ markets to primetime television cooking shows, notions of ‘knowing where our food comes from’ and ‘reconnecting’ with the sources of our food are now central to a range of contemporary cultural movements and popular media texts. While these ideas have primarily been mobilized by those with activist commitments to ethical and sustainable food production, they are also increasingly appearing in the media and marketing strategies of large agribusiness and retailing corporations, including those of the major Australian supermarkets. This paper explores some of the techniques currently used by major supermarkets to respond to criticisms about their food ethics, market control and relationship with producers. Using a case study of Australian supermarket Coles and its integration of its ‘Helping Australia Grow’ campaign into reality television cooking show, My Kitchen Rules, it will consider the textual practices of, and social media response to, Coles’ sponsorship and integrated advertising strategies of putting a ‘face’ to the farmers who produce the products found on supermarket shelves. By emphasizing to Coles customers that they, too, can ‘know where their food comes from’ and that their purchasing decisions support individual farmers and family farms rather than large conglomerates, these strategies help to locate Coles within a network of meanings that seek to both shift and contest negative perceptions of the supermarket chain’s corporate practices and food politics in ways that potentially complicate the activist discourses from which they draw.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Information about the production contexts of reality television cooking shows is drawn from a larger Australian Research Council funded project, ‘The New Politics of Food and the Australian Media’ (DE140101412). This project includes qualitative research interviews with food television contestants and production staff. All interviews were conducted in accordance with the conditions offered by the Human Research Ethics Committee (Tasmania).

  2. 2.

    ‘Top’ tweets are those that have been identified by Twitter as garnering the greatest user engagement via replies and retweets.

  3. 3.

    While, following Bruns and Burgess (2012), this paper acknowledges that a hashtag-based study of tweets is inevitably limited because it cannot capture potentially relevant tweets that do not explicitly use the selected hashtag(s), such an approach nonetheless provides a means of accessing the activity of engaged Twitter users who specifically seek to locate their tweets within particular conversations and communities.

Abbreviations

ACCC:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

MKR :

My Kitchen Rules (television show)

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (DE140101412).

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Correspondence to Michelle Phillipov.

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Phillipov, M. ‘Helping Australia Grow’: supermarkets, television cooking shows, and the strategic manufacture of consumer trust. Agric Hum Values 33, 587–596 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-015-9643-6

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Keywords

  • Supermarkets
  • Advertising
  • Farmers
  • Television cooking shows