MEDIA: BEHIND THE HYPE - Olive and Delicious bring a new flavour to market

A brace of glossy food titles are tempting advertisers to buy space, Ian Darby writes.

After a gluttonous Christmas spent gorging on pork, stuffing, turkey, beef and cheese, it's refreshing to see the cover of February's Delicious magazine.

A soothing green colour scheme is adorned with a bowl of ever-so-healthy spaghetti with watercress pesto. The cover houses the title's "low-fat special".

Enticing stuff for a nation that has become belatedly fascinated with cooking and with the onscreen antics of Essex fool Jamie Oliver and tough Glaswegian Gordon Ramsay.

Delicious was launched on 5 November by Seven Publishing, a company created by Michael Potter, the chairman of Redwood. Seven had won the rights to publish a UK edition of the title from FPC Magazines, which created the title in Australia. BBC Magazines also pitched for the job, lost and then decided to launch its own food title, called Olive, on 19 November.

The offerings are similar, both pitching for the new wave of home cooks (aged between 25 and 45). Badged the "white-plate generation" for their propensity to invite Piers and Chloe around for a dinner party, these are readers that are, to quote Olive's sell, "time starved yet hungry for simple, delicious and stylish food".

Delicious has a cover price of £2.50 and Olive sells for £2.80. Both have attracted respectable amounts of advertising and promotions from the likes of Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Weetabix.

But is the competition worried? There are already established titles in this market, notably Waitrose Food Illustrated, BBC's Good Food and Observer Food Monthly.

Andrew Hirsch, the chief executive of John Brown Citrus Publishing, which publishes the Waitrose title, says it's too early to say if they will have an impact on its ad revenue. "Let's see what their ABCs are. Waitrose Food Illustrated has a circulation of 250,000 and they're not going to get that. The question is: will they still be there in a year's time?"

However, it's worth pointing out that Olive and Delicious are attempting to build an actively purchased newsstand circulation (just 8,289 of the Waitrose title's circulation is paid for).

The early signs are that Olive and Delicious are doing well. Initial (unofficial) sales figures suggest that Olive is selling 90,000 copies and Delicious around 110,000 (its "settle down" target is 130,000).

Ian Edwards, a planner at Media- Com, says: "Olive is slightly more upmarket and, given it has the support of the BBC, there is a slight premium for advertisers on rates. They both have similar support in terms of the advertisers that are using them."

Edwards thinks there is room for both titles: "They're in a slightly different market to the more established titles and I don't think they'll take masses of advertising away from them but everybody here is really positive and keen to place advertising with both."

So it seems Delicious and Olive are serious propositions for advertisers.

It's now up to publishers to cash in on the next cultural phenomenon.

Housework!, anyone?