Friday 28 October 2016

Can you make cents of the new coins situation?

Feargal Quinn

Published 22/10/2015 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke
Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Q: I have read recently that one cent and two cent coins will be gone from October 28. Do I have to change all my shelf prices?

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A: Absolutely not! I was briefly involved in the original pilot scheme for this in Wexford and the initiative is about rounding prices at the till and not about changing the price on the shelf.

I was recently talking to a journalist who mistakenly accused the campaign of rounding up prices which is not what it is about either.

Here is how it will work. All the shelf prices will remain as they are and gradually one and two cent coins will disappear. When you get to the till if your bill is €51.02, then the retailer will round this down to €51. Conversely, if your bill is €51.04, it will be rounded up to €51.05.

It is not a new idea and something that I introduced into Ireland 25 years ago when I had seen a scheme in America, which encouraged customers to take coins from a saucer if their bill had gone marginally over or under the amount 'take a cent, give a cent'.

Of course we talked about pennies in Ireland as that was the currency at the time and customers were encouraged to either take loose change or leave loose change for other customers to use. It is exactly the same principle here and something which should make shopping much easier for customers.

Q: I have a conventional farm of approximately 60 acres and I also have a part time job and I just about get by. I was thinking about converting the farm to organic. Do you have any knowledge of the organic sector?

A: The organic journey has not been clear cut in Ireland, but in my opinion does offer good potential. A lot does rely on the premium that is required for individual products and the customer's willingness to pay.

At one point during my time in Superquinn, organic kiwi had a very small differential from conventional products and we made a decision to switch all of our supply to organic. On the other hand, a farmer producing organic areas needs to feed his chickens organic feed, which can be significantly more expensive than the conventional product.

The recent renewed public interest in allotments and a more general consumer interest in where food comes from and how it has been processed should all help consumers to have a growing interest in, and understanding of what organic means.

My advice to you would be to first conduct significant research in the area and go and talk to retailers and chefs about the current demand for organic food and the premium which the consumer is willing to pay for this.

The Bord Bia research department will also be a great source of information on both what is happening the organic sector at national and international level.

As well as selling through third party retailers and restaurants, you could also consider selling directly at a farmers market or developing a box scheme where you would supply consumers directly to their door on a weekly basis. The internet also offers new opportunities for consumer direct sales, whether it is via your own online shop or one of the already well established ones in the area of meat and vegetables.

The one danger is that you make assumptions about where the market opportunities lie and produce a product that the consumer is not willing to pay a premium for. Do lots of great research and put money into your branding so that the story of how unique your product is gets told. This will be a really interesting project for you and I wish you well.

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