Sunday 25 August 2019

12pc jump in steak sales puts SuperValu ahead in store wars

Revival of home cooking by middle class puts grocer ahead

Martin Kelleher: SuperValu CEO talks of a ‘foodie culture’
Martin Kelleher: SuperValu CEO talks of a ‘foodie culture’

Sarah McCabe

Supervalu's chief has credited a resurgence in home cooking for catapulting the grocer into first place in the €9bn grocery market.

Tapping into the rise of food culture and resurgence of traditional home cooking has paid off for the supermarket chain's bottom line, chief executive Martin Kelleher said.

Beef volumes are up 4.2pc, with more expensive meat like steaks showing 12pc growth and roasts up 10pc in the year to date.

"There has been a clear move towards a foodie culture and health and a return to good-quality, wholesome food and cooking - good fruit and vegetables, quality meat and raw ingredients," said Kelleher.

"A couple of years ago, we took the decision to invest in high-quality Irish meat, from traceability right down to how it is butchered. That has paid off as more and more shoppers return to home cooking."

Data released this week by research group Kantar Worldpanel show that Supervalu has edged ahead of Tesco to first place in the grocery market in the three months to November 8, for only the second quarter in a decade.

The brand, which is owned by the Cork-based Musgrave Group, has also capitalised on Irish consumers' burgeoning health consciousness.

It launched a dedicated health and wellness line two years ago, which in the year to date is reporting 16pc growth, driven by top sellers like nut butters and superfoods such as chia and cocao. Sales of trendy vegetables like kale and avocados are also pushing growth. Kale sales are up 72pc year on year, while avocado sales are up 47pc.

The end result is an increase in consumer spending. The average consumer spent an extra €16 in Supervalu over the past quarter when compared with last year.

"Consumers are still very value-conscious but they are increasingly prioritising quality slightly ahead of price," Kelleher said.

"We are seeing a small uptick in luxury shopping. Shoppers aren't spending €40 on a bottle of wine but they are spending a couple of euro more."

All the economic indicators and reports from Supervalu franchisees suggest Christmas sales will outperform last year's festive season.

"But any improvements will be modest, the industry has been hit with deflation for years," Kelleher said.

The grocery price wars show no signs of letting up, he said, adding: "It is as fierce as ever. International commentators view Ireland's grocery market as competitive as anywhere in the world. The price wars are here to stay."

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