The Australian food ecommerce market has grown significantly over recent years – growth which shows no sign of slowing down. Market volume is expected to increase from USD$4.3 billion in 2023 to USD$7.1 billion by 2027.1
This growth has opened up a world of possibilities for agri-food businesses in Australia that have traditionally traded solely within B2B channels. The increase in consumer demand for fresh food and a “paddock-to-plate” experience means that these businesses are looking to diversify by expanding into DTC ecommerce.
However, for as much opportunity as this presents, it also brings huge challenges. It often requires brands to acquire a new set of skills in order to access the benefits of ecommerce.
Swanky’s expertise and experience in the food ecommerce industry meant our Australian team was well-positioned to support the businesses involved with Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise’s (TSBE) eAg program as they learnt more about how to create and grow an ecommerce food business.
Rowena Beveridge, Agribusiness Development Manager at TSBE, noted, “The success of participants in our eAg program was not only measured by their increased sales and revenue, but the creation of a sustainable ecosystem empowering our farmers to grow their businesses and communities, while providing consumers access to fresh, healthy and locally sourced produce.”
This article will explore the content and success of the eAg program, meet the businesses involved, and follow up on one of the resulting DTC ventures.
What is TSBE Food Leaders Australia?
TSBE is the go-to organisation linking business with opportunities to create sustainable growth and diversity for the region. Their commitment to this is evidenced throughout their work – including their effort to demystify the world of ecommerce food business.
TSBE Food Leaders Australia (FLA) is a collaborative group of members created specifically to assist the food and agricultural sector in the area.
What is the eAg program?
The eAg program was designed by TSBE in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It’s an ecommerce project with the aim of developing new skills for food and agribusinesses across the region.
These skills would help bring clarity for participants exploring food ecommerce and would ultimately grow these brands’ online sales.
“TSBE is passionate about helping regional Queensland agri-food companies like Victoria Hill Lamb develop their story and connect with consumers. This program is one way of enabling producers to create a true paddock-to-plate experience for consumers and capitalise on the growing ecommerce trend for fresh food.” – Justin Heaven, General Manager of TSBE FLA.
Who was involved in this ecommerce food business project?
A range of agri-food businesses from across the Queensland region participated in the eAg program. Many of these businesses have a long history of selling B2B and are now interested in exploring and expanding DTC channels.
Let’s learn a little more about each of the companies involved:
- Mort & Co; an established agricultural group, managing in excess of 215,000 head of cattle through their feedlots annually. The business has expanded well beyond their historical roots to encompass fertiliser production, stockfeed manufacturing, transport and logistics, and their DTC meat brand, Phoenix Beef.
- Darling Fresh SmokeHaus; the epicurean epiphany of Jeff Schultheiss – food technologist and consultant. DFSmokeHaus’ range of ready to eat, wood smoked foods is spreading rapidly across the East Coast of Australia, available online and in a growing number of stockists.
- Four Daughters Beef; created as an extension of a highly successful, family-operated, beef production business. Four Daughters Beef provides a DTC paddock-to-plate offering to diversify the business’ revenue streams.
- Woods Group; a pioneering Australian agricultural community, based in Queensland. From a pastoral company, growing their own grains, Woods Group have evolved to incorporate food products, wholesale seed, stockfeeds and algal farming.
- Aussie Pork Suppliers; this company has been in the business for more than 50 years and continues to support local Australian farmers in the production and sales of pork products.
- PT BlueBoys; a company with a patented solution to a problem faced by industrial users the world over. Developed by Darren Dillon, PT BlueBoys coupling covers were designed to solve the problem of mechanical couplings the world over – seizing due to grit, dirt and dust.
- Victoria Hill Lamb (VHL); an organic lamb feedlot, run by fifth generation farmers – the Schmidts. VHL introduced ecommerce to their business in 2022 to build a direct rapport between “the Outback” and city cultures of Australia, and to build an alternate revenue stream for their otherwise wholesale business.
- Clayton’s Organic Beef; a certified organic beef producer based in Western Queensland.
What did the eAg program involve?
As part of the eAg program, Swanky conducted three workshops which we explore in more depth below. These were led by Managing Director of Swanky Australia, Sean Clanchy.
We also ran a series of 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with the participating businesses. These focused on things like branding, business goals and technical requirements. Our team helped each business to define their ecommerce project scope and assist them in seeking out relevant implementation partners.
Workshop 1: How to define a go-to-market MVP for your ecommerce food business
The aim of this was to help members define the functional requirements they should be asking their technical teams to solve.
In this we explored the questions: ‘What and how am I selling?’, ‘How do I attract and retain customers?’ and ‘How do I measure performance?’.
As attendees answered these questions they were able to build a better picture of what the outcomes of a go-to-market minimum viable product (MVP) looked like for their company and future ecommerce food business. They were also able to consider the problems that technical experts would be required to solve.
Workshop 2: How to research the market
This section of the program covered research topics such as product market fit, market scale and competitor analysis within the ecommerce food industry.
Once we had understood and established answers to these questions, we moved on to think about how to;
- define your audience personas;
- create (& test) the “right” message for your personas;
- set and meet consumer expectations;
- refine your proposition over time; and
- create a marketing campaign plan that considers the role of different channels in a funnel.
Workshop 3: How to set goals and KPIs for an ecommerce food business
This final part of the eAg program delved into goal setting. We explored why SMART goals help brands grow fast and sustainably, and why they also allow teams to work together efficiently because goals are defined clearly.
We looked especially at how to decide the review cycles for goals that have been set, as well as how to define decision rules based on KPI performance and goal achievement during those review cycle windows.
Participants had some time to set goals around business, marketing and project. We were able to talk about how these would then be implemented and reviewed for their future ecommerce food business.
Commenting on the program’s success, Jeff Schultheiss of DFSmokeHaus said:
“Excellent structure and format, highly educational with the ability to develop real-time priorities and then put the learnings into immediate action. Loved the Pitch session on the last day, I think everyone learned a LOT about pitching to an E-Com audience through practical hands-on exposure.
“Very well-run course, especially with timing and scheduling of sessions, seamless execution, TSBE Team were superb (as always). Swanky are amazing! I was so looked after; I can’t believe the support we got for the spend, total gratitude.”
And giving his thoughts on the value of this ecommerce-focused program, Swanky’s Sean Clanchy said:
“It was a great pleasure to work with TSBE to support the eAg program. There are so many exceptional businesses in regional Australia that often get overlooked from an ecommerce and digital perspective.
While agriculture and industry make great use of technology everyday in a production and manufacturing sense, they are hugely under-serviced and under-educated on digital marketing, conversion optimisation and digital commerce. Considering the magnitude of agricultural businesses, the value potential they can realise from differentiating their products and brands is seemingly a huge opportunity.”
After eAg: Website and branding for Victoria Hill Lamb
With a new-found confidence in DTC ecommerce as a result of the eAg program, VHL engaged Swanky in a 3-month website and branding project. Claire Schmidt, the company’s Co-founder, said this of the program:
“The E-Ag program gave us the fundamentals and confidence to move forward with connecting to our customers through e-commerce, it was the launchpad for us to begin our dream of supplying the Victoria Hill Lamb box direct to consumers from all over the state.”
Over the course of the project, we built a Shopify MVP with an integrated tech stack that has enabled VHL to scale their business and accelerate overall growth through increased visibility and revenue.
Our Growth Accelerator team also provided support with paid advertising, driving significant uplifts in new users, traffic, transactions, conversion rate and revenue.
Find out more about the DTC ecommerce solution Swanky developed for VHL.
The go-to Shopify Plus agency for ecommerce food businesses in Australia
The Australian Swanky team based in Toowoomba, Queensland, are proud to be working with TSBE. This includes our support last year of their ongoing eAg program and the Emerging Exporters Program that is supporting a cohort of agribusinesses in Queensland to move into exportations.
We look forward to seeing the eAg participants grow their businesses with the use of ecommerce.
We help disruptive startups through to established enterprise brands navigate the complexities of food and beverage ecommerce with a unique combination of creativity, data and innovation. We have particular expertise in DTC subscriptions in this sector, having developed custom solutions for the likes of global unicorn HelloFresh and Australian brands such as LiquorLoot and Blackstone Road.