Steady as you go is the mantra for Ireland's grocery trade as trends show the economic recovery continues to make gradual progress.
Speaking at Nielsen Ireland's annual conference in the Gibson Hotel in Dublin, commercial director Matt Clark said while fortunes pick up for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), market news is mixed.
Nielsen's consumer sentiment index for the first quarter of 2015 shows a 92 rating, still some way off the 118 score achieved during the Celtic Tiger years.
In his 'State of the Nation' talk, Clark said that if consumers see their personal finances improve, spend will rise and the index could hit the century.
The average monthly home spend on groceries last year was €383, down from €400 in 2013.
Irish consumers remain nervous, a mood reflected in shoppers saving more and choosing cheaper groceries. While personal health ranked the top consumer priority - higher than any economic concern - average monthly spend on fresh foods dropped from €178 to €172.
Almost three-quarters (72pc) say the economy is still in recession and 59pc expect things to stay that way for some time.
As to how people make savings, 42pc point to their gas and electricity bills, while 41pc cut back on takeaway meals, and 39pc switch to cheaper groceries. Ireland's FMCG market is worth €15.2bn - a slight decline on recent years, thanks to flat sales. Clark says 68pc of consumers are brand switchers and marketers should focus long-term on changing the consumer mind-set.
The multiples like Tesco, SuperValu and Dunnes account for 47pc, convenience stores like Spar and Centra have a 36pc stake and German discounters Lidl and Aldi 17pc.
Irish consumers buy into the discounter concept more than any other EU country. The trend is likely to continue for the next few years, with the discounters peaking at around 21pc.
Clark says the only way the discounters can expect to make further gains again would be to open new stores. The multiples are not taking the Lidl/Aldi threat casually, as seen by the heavy ad spends on TV and press.
While many of the ads may look similar, Tesco continues pushing its 'keep prices down' catch-cry, SuperValu goes with quality food at affordable prices and Dunnes plays up its vouchers.
Will clicks replace bricks? Clark doesn't see any major move towards online at the expense of supermarket trips. Online shopping share is under 10pc. However, increasing broadband speeds and Dunnes' plans to go online in the autumn may shift that stat upwards.
* Highly-rated advertising executive Maria Scannell has left her post as commercial manager at Mirror Media Ireland (MMI) as she's moving to Fiji to become head of media at Digicel's Trend Media. Launched in April last year, Trend's chief executive is former Metro Herald executive Richie Kelly. The company publishes Caribbean news app and website Loop News and has partnership deals with digital brands Shazam and Celtra.
Scannell, previously a key account manager with Independent News & Media (INM) and an account manager at Core Media's Starcom, is tasked with developing Trend's TV, outdoor and digital interests across the Asia Pacific region. While at MMI, she was twice named Trinity Mirror's commercial manager of the year.
While presenting the gong, the group's chief revenue officer, James Wildman, said Scannell "blew the judges' socks off" with her energy, professionalism and business results. Joining her in Fiji will be her partner and up to now Core Media trading director, Bernard Bermingham.
* Content creation is all the go in adland these days. Magazines Ireland obviously has no intention of missing out on the craze. The body which pushes the wares of periodicals is staging a members' lunch in tandem with the Public Relations Institute (PRII), with the aim of showing how publishers can work with PRs for mutual benefit.
Speaking on the topic are Elaine Prendeville, Harmonia; Stephen Wynne-Jones, Checkout; Aideen O'Brien, Xpose magazine; Karen Hesse, 256 Media; and the inimitable Melanie Morris (pictured below, right), whose title is editor-in-chief, no less, of Image magazine.
The lunch is in the Mansion House next Thursday and tickets cost €25.
* Owens DDB has adapted the Volkswagen 'Ultimate Service' campaign first created by DDB London. The TV ads show VW poster sites in different parts of Dublin where the prices have been scratched out, supposedly by competitors fearful of the impact the car brand's value for money has on sales.
Meanwhile, Owens DDB creative director Donal O'Dea is a relieved man now that a law-abiding set of 'villains' - Aston Villa - didn't steal the show from his beloved Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley at the weekend.
Despite O'Dea admitting to pre-match bad vibes, the Gunners emerged as easy victors, winning 4-0 and achieving a record 12th FA Cup trophy for Arsene Wenger's north London Army.
Michael Cullen is editor of Marketing.ie: email@example.com