The brains behind “The truth about the supermarket war”

Vet student, Cassandra MacDonald, launched her single-handed David vs Goliath battle against supermarket giant Coles yesterday and, already, her clever YouTube video “The TRUTH about the supermarket war” looks like going viral.

So, who is this talented young woman? Milk Maid Marian asked Cassandra a few questions to find out more.

MMM: Tell us about yourself – do you have a dairying connection?

I am a fifth year veterinary science student studying at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. I am not from a farm, I was brought up in the suburban South Coast of NSW for the first ten years of my life. My connection to the dairy industry started through showing dairy cattle at high school. Through the opportunities I have been given and the people I have met/connections I have made through this initial start in the dairy industry, I have been able to get where I am today, studying veterinary science, showing and breeding dairy cattle, milking on dairies, scholarships I have won, trips overseas that I have won. All because someone saw my interest as an eleven year old, who had fell in love with dairy cattle. I feel I owe it to the industry to promote it and share with others how great the industry is.

MMM: What made you decide to create your infographic?

I saw the Coles video, after seeing an article about it on FarmOnline and felt angry about the misrepresentations that presented in their video. I couldn’t believe or understand the way they tried to represent the different points just to spin them to their advantage and fool consumers into believing them. And believe they will! I wanted to reply and vent my anger. So I thought almost immediately- hey I can draw, why not use that talent and copy them and throw it straight back in their faces? Especially when they have obviously spent a lot of money and effort on it, and me being an absolute amateur, I wanted to make fun of their efforts and make it seem trivial in a way I guess.

MMM: How did you do it? How long have you been working on it?

I started by doing drawings and then realised I needed a plan, a path to follow so I scrapped that idea and started again by writing what I thought I would narrate over the top of the video. I wanted it to address the same issues as brought up in the Coles video but represent them properly and wholly. I wrote it off the cuff, after having written a letter to The Land for their editorial (after finding out it was way too long for what they wanted) which was researched using ABARE data and data and information from Dairy Australia as well as a few of my farmer contacts who are extremely experienced in the matter – I am always either text messaging or conversing with them either over the phone or in person about these issues.

I then went through the text I had written and wrote down a list of what I could draw to represent the points I was trying to make. It took me a couple of hours over two afternoons to make the drawings- of which I filmed on the floor with my iPad- and everything you see in the video is the first and only draft- there were no mistakes, no reshooting, or several tried at any of the pictures- they’re all the ones I drew off the cuff as I consulted my list I made. I think I made about 52 clips altogether.

I then had to work out how to record my voice (easy once I found the voice recorder on my computer), and then, compile and edit the clips to make the video. This is where I ran into a dead end. I didn’t think it was going to make it passed this. I had several ‘movie maker’ programs on my computer, didn’t know how to use any of them, and none of them did what I wanted them to do.

Two nights ago I finally found a program on the internet, downloaded it and spent the next 16 hours working on getting the clips to match the audio – which was not easy – especially when my ancient computer couldn’t deal with the needs of the program and wouldn’t let me preview anything before committing to making it a movie. And each time you commit, it took about one hour for it to process it, so after ‘making’ the movie 7 times, it was finally close enough to what I wanted and I was ready to post it! I even went as far as to looking up what the best time to post on Facebook was, and luckily my research told me the time I had planned.

MMM: How do you hope Coles, shoppers and dairy farmers will respond?

I hope it makes Coles realise that there are people out there ready to fight back against their sneaky spin. They will have to think harder to try and justify their moves, because if they lie or warp the truth again, I will be more than happy to come back at them again. Also, as I say in the video, I want them to stop denying that they are not having an effect on the price some farmers are getting for their milk, and on the industry as a whole. Because even if they are not having a direct effect, their effect is certainly indirect with the decreased sale in branded products and thus decrease in income and profits of the processing companies who ultimately need to pay the farmer.

I hope consumers will stop and think about what exactly is happening. I hope they think about the choices they make, and how it affects others. Ultimately it would be great to see more people boycotting generic brand milks and buying branded milk products, I think this is the only way we can combat the issue, as Coles is not going to budge anytime soon (unless they get done in the current investigation by the ACCC). I also want them to think about the information they are being fed, especially by such big powerful companies – not to believe everything they are fed!

For dairy farmers, I would like to see them agree with me as I hope I have done the right thing and represented them in a way that is honest and accurate. I want their approval basically. After their approval I would love them to all share the video around to everyone they know – why because it will get to more and more people, and most of them won’t be form a dairy background. And most of them do buy milk, and most likely buy it from a supermarket. Then we are educating our consumers for our ultimate benefit, for their support and hope that they will make conscious decisions at the supermarket and not just go for the cheapest alternative.

MMM: What has been the response so far?

So far the response has been somewhat unbelievable. It is what I wanted though. I want this to reach as many people as it can. One of my biggest passions is educating people about agriculture, especially about the dairy industry. At present I have had over 50 of my friends share the video on Facebook with who knows how many friends (and who knows how that keeps going), I have had numerous people share it on other pages on Facebook, and before I knew it, it had hit Twitter – I wasn’t even a part of Twitter (but I am now!). On YouTube itself, I have had 2788 views in not even 24 hours. The support has been fantastic as I was somewhat nervous, but the commendations have been all positive and really amazing!

10 thoughts on “The brains behind “The truth about the supermarket war”

  1. FOLLOWING IS A LETTER I SENT TO WESFARMERS YESTERDAY AND FOLLOWING IS COLES REPLY

    To whom ever is reading this, you like me are a proud Australian, I am sure you have similar beliefs to me, that in Australia we get a better than fair go, that the food we eat is grown here and is a safe and healthy product.
    In my earlier days I managed farm supply stores for a company called Victorian Producers’ Co-Op and we were agents for Wesfarmers Federation Insurance and I can tell you from first hand experience WFI were fantastic to deal with and that Victorian Producers’ were equally great to work for, we dealt with old fashioned values eg loyalty and respect.

    Those values have mainly diminished over the last 20 years, our big businesses especially Coles and Woolworths being the biggest culprits of that.

    I am disgusted at the lack of Australian made products along with the ordinary quality so called fresh vegetables and meat being offered by Coles and Woolworths, you have been part of the decimation of farming in Australia and have mainly assisted in driving it to the point of no return, thanks to you and others fruit growers are dropping thousands of tonnes off their trees because they can not sell it, this is happening today, dairy farmers are also being forced to become militant because of yours and other actions.

    So where to from here? Well that is up to you guys, I would say if you keep treating Australians the way you do you will lose market share, so I am asking that you change your practices and not continue to fight with farmers but work collaboratively with them.

    Thank you for your time.

    Peter Gilmour
    Cobram

    On Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 8:41 AM, Coles Customer Care wrote:
    1 March 2013

    Dear Mr Gilmour

    Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns regarding our sourcing policies.

    As an Australian business, Coles is strongly committed to supporting Australian growers and manufacturers and we work closely with them to build long-term relationships that are sustainable and profitable. Together, we are always looking for new ways to grow Australian farmers’ businesses by developing new product varieties and ensuring that customer demand consistently grows.

    As a result of our “Australia First” sourcing policy, almost 90% of Coles Brand food & drink is Australian made or grown. We only import when the product is not grown or produced in Australia or where we cannot source sufficient quantities to meet demand from our customers. We are very proud to say that Coles Brand has more products labelled with the “Australian Made” symbol than any other brand in Australia.

    If you would like further information about our commitment to Australian products, please visit the following link http://produce.coles.com.au/Coles-Helping-Australia-Grow.aspx

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. We hope the above information has helped alleviate your concerns.

    Yours sincerely

    Jennifer Hamilton
    CUSTOMER CARE CONTACT CENTRE

    Ref. C086789580

    Dear Ms Hamilton,
    You guys don’t get it and obviously don’t want to get it

    Peter Gilmour

  2. Marian, great interview. If you could pass on to Cassandra that while I am not a professional video editor, I do have some experience and a fast computer and would be happy to assist her with any new videos ( I know the frustration of glacial rendering!)

  3. Good on you and don’t be discouraged, Peter. The more mail they get, the more seriously they’ll look at their policies, no matter how dismissive they might seem. PR people take letters as a gauge of public sentiment.

  4. Marian, there is an article on the back page of today’s AFR that you might be interested in reading – entitled “Grocers Push to Shelve Critics”

      • About the Woolies CEO, the backsliding from a compulsory code for homebrands (to limit them to 30% of shelf space) to a voluntary code (ie useless) and a comment from some strategy group that explains that Coles and Woolies have the wrong strategy (ie screwing farmers is good short term, lousy business model long term). Let me know if you want a copy.

  5. Well done Marian. You are a great advocate of dairying and the land and I thank you for your well written pieces that educate the public on our behalf. Cassandra, you are amazingly talented, intelligent and passionate about our industry and I applaude you for your can-do attitude. Thank you so much for what you have done and what you will do in the future from a grateful Dairy Farmer

  6. Amazing!

    Well done for sure Cass especially with the fact you had so many points where you could of just given in!!

    Keep up the great work and if you need help as well with the video just yell out… Always willing to help out where ever I can with the farmers and farm helpers of the world!

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