Sainsbury's and Carlton disband Taste

LONDON - Carlton Communications and supermarket group J Sainsbury are to disband their joint-venture television and internet food and drink project, the Taste Network.

The closure of the venture, which was launched in May 2000, is being blamed on the weakened advertising market and slow e-commerce growth.

The venture was designed to bring together Sainsbury's and Carlton's food internet sites alongside the Carlton Food Network TV channel to create the UK's first TV and internet food and drink channel.

As of September 1, Sainsbury's will resume sole control of the web-based recipe and wine assets, and Carlton will resume sole control of the Taste/Carlton Food Network channel. The website will close.

Matthew Kearney, director of business development at Carlton Communications, said, "Taste was an innovative project but has suffered from weaker-than-expected growth in advertising and e-commerce revenues in a generally difficult market for niche channels. Accordingly, we have agreed to dissolve the joint venture and return the constituent activities to the parent companies."

Taste Network brought together Carlton's SimplyFood website, the Carlton Food Network TV channel and Sainsbury's food and drink heritage from its tasteforlife website. The two websites were then merged to form Taste employed around 40 staff, who were transferred to the new company from Sainsbury's and Carlton.

Angela Megson, Sainsbury's e-commerce and business development director, said, "We have jointly agreed that we should take back the assets that we invested, rather than begin to invest capital when the market conditions are no longer right for testing our concept. We will merge the website assets with those of Sainsbury's current websites."

Anthony Ellis was appointed chief executive of the new company at launch. It is believed that he will be leaving the company. Ellis was previously managing director of the WPP Group-owned Clever Media.

At the time of the launch, Gerry Murphy, chief executive of Carlton, said the two planned to create the definitive interactive food and drink TV channel and website.

The UK online grocery market is estimated to be worth around £7.5bn by 2005. Nearly 15m people in the UK now have access to the internet and the Henley Research Centre suggests that shopping via TV will overtake internet shopping by 2004.


Gordon MacMillan, recommends


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