5 June 2020

The Start of Winter and World Environment Day

Dear Customers,

With winter upon us and today being World Environment Day, I thought it was a good time to talk about some of the key things we’ve been working on.

Committed to a greener tomorrow

Something that really surprised me during COVID was the continued relevance of the environment – with 70% of Australians saying that taking care of the planet and making sustainable choices remained important to them, even at the height of the crisis.

It’s now two years since we phased out single-use plastic bags. While this was a big step, with more than 6 billion bags removed from circulation since then, we’ve always been clear that it was just the first on our journey towards a greener tomorrow.

So with that in mind, I’m proud to be able to report on some of the progress we’ve made:

  • From this week, paper shopping bags are available to buy as an option in all our Supermarkets and Metro stores. They are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, made from 70% recycled paper, have been tested to hold up to 6 kg of groceries and can be easily recycled through household kerbside collection. We also plan to start rolling out paper bags online as an option, starting with Sydney deliveries today.
  • We have introduced reusable nylon produce bags in more than 200 stores, which are specially designed to be compatible with our checkout scales, as an alternative to single-use plastic.
  • We’ve removed more than 890 tonnes of plastic from our fruit, vegetable and bakery packaging in the past two years. That includes trays for sweet potatoes and organic apples, which are now made of recycled cardboard.
  • Finally, we received a lot of negative feedback over the last two year on the plastic packaging on Fresh Food Kids apples, pears and bananas and have commenced a trial where we will switch from plastic packaging to easy-to-recycle cardboard boxes.  

Supporting Australian made

As we start to recover from COVID-19, we understand how important it is to support Australian businesses and in turn our communities.

That’s why, to support Australian dairy farmers, this week we announced that we will extend our existing dairy contribution payments for Woolworths branded two and three litre fresh own brand milk varieties until June 2021. This extension is expected to contribute more than $30 million to dairy farmers, on top of the almost $50 million we, together with you, our customers, have already contributed. Thank you for your continued support for this key initiative.

This is in addition to our commitment to an Australian-first sourcing policy for fruit, vegetables and meat and supporting local products where possible.

We have also heard your feedback on how to make identifying Australian products easier when you’re shopping – it's a challenge we’re up for and one we are working on.

Winter inspiration and entertaining

In previous emails, I talked about how our cooking behaviour changed during COVID-19 and how we were becoming more adventurous in the kitchen. This trend has continued with strong growth in all forms of vegetables, with eggplant up a massive 38% on last year, herbs are also up 28%, ginger up 18%, garlic up 26% and chillies up 36%.

What strikes me at the moment, though, is how we are slowly getting back into home entertaining as restrictions ease. Premium entertaining products like specialty cheeses, olives and premium crackers have grown by 23% on last year and baking and desserts are up 34%. Perhaps it’s because we’re now able to invite people over again and show off our new baking skills?

Equally, as we continue to eat more at home, we’ve just launched a new range of options to make life easier in time for winter – delicious stir-fries, tray bakes and vegetable packs with a lot of the hard work already done for you. Look for our COOK and &Veg ranges next time you’re shopping.

And we’re not only getting comfort from food. We’ve sold almost 200,000 pairs of slippers, 100,000 sets of pyjamas, 20,000 electric blankets and 40,000 heaters at Woolworths over the past 5 weeks.

COVID-19 update

I wanted to share some updates as restrictions further ease across the community:

  • We are returning to packing your bags at the checkout, including bags you’ve brought from home. (Also a reminder of our ‘Bag for Good’ program, where we’ll replace damaged reusable bags for free.)
  • Almost all product limits are now lifted and I’m pleased to say we have plenty of stock of toilet paper and paper towels! Toilet paper sales are actually 9% down on last year as people use what they already have at home. The only limits remaining are on antibacterial wipes, hand wash and frozen fruit.
  • Keeping our customers and teams safe is our top priority, so hygiene and social distancing measures remain in place.
  • The acceleration in digital continues, with almost three quarters of a million Australians having already downloaded the new Woolworths Rewards App. (I highly recommend it – it helps you never miss your personalised offers and keeps track of what you spend with eReceipts). You can download it for free here.
  • With readership of our weekly online catalogue growing strongly, we’re able to get even more into the digital version than the printed one – with recipes and inspiration for easy dinners, desserts and back-to-school lunchboxes. You can view this week’s catalogue here.

Recognising those who have gone above and beyond

Finally, thank you for all your positive feedback on our team. It has been very inspiring to read your various comments and we have been reflecting on how we can recognise their extraordinary efforts.

We’ve decided the best way would be to invite them to become shareholders in Woolworths, so this week we announced that more than 100,000 of our permanent (full-time and part-time) team members would be rewarded with shares in Woolworths Group before the end of June.

I hope you agree that this is appropriate recognition and we are excited to welcome them to our shareholder register.

It’s another reminder that it’s only by being ‘better together’ than we can live our purpose of ‘creating better experiences together for a better tomorrow’.

CEO, Woolworths Group