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Weekly Round Up, September 30, 2014

Published on Sep 29 2014 1:47 PM

Weekly Round Up, September 30, 2014

Tesco Ireland has issued a statement in response to news reports last week that suggested that the retailer may be looking for voluntary redundancies across its store portfolio. In the statement, the retailer said, "With over 2.5 million customer transactions per week and 15,000 employees, we keep the structures of our business under constant review to ensure that we offer the best possible service to customers. Following a recent review, a small number of roles in our stores are changing in order to ensure that we have more colleagues on the shop floor helping customers. We are in early stage discussions with some of our departmental managers in stores to see if any wish to be redeployed to other roles or whether any would wish to apply for voluntary redundancy." The retailer added that "at this early stage, we can’t speculate on final outcomes."

Irish shoppers continue to show concern about over-reaching following the recession and are watching their budgets, new research reveals. Georgieann Harrington of Kantar WorldPanel presented the information as part of a presentation at the 'Mining for Growth' conference in Croke Park last week. The research shows as many as 84% of consumers are concerned about their spending, with 44% 'slightly concerned', and 40% saying they are ‘very concerned’. However, only 6% of respondents who admitted to being ‘very concerned’ ranked grocery shopping as an important area in which to cut their spending. Instead, households are focusing on putting more planning into shopping trips, buying cheaper goods, or even changing where they shop to reduce their spending. In another positive finding for the grocery category, the research shows that the value of the annual average grocery basket spend has increased from last year’s €5,397. The same grocery basket, spread across the year in 2014, is likely to cost an annual total of €5,478, due to 1.5% inflation.

Discount retailer Dealz is looking to expand the number of stores it operates in Ireland to as many as 100 over the coming years. The single price retailer, which celebrated its third anniversary of trading in Ireland at the weekend, has said that it plans to invest €4.5 million over the coming years in new store development, including the opening of ten new stores. Dealz also plans to open a new flagship store in Dublin's Ilac Centre next month, which will be the 35th store in its portfolio. Three more stores are expected to open by the end of the year.

Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has highlighted the opportunities for criminality within the food chain, referring to it as a “soft target”. Speaking about the horsemeat scandal, Prof. Reilly said it was a ‘wake-up call to Europe that criminals were getting involved in the food chain and were up to no good’. Reilly drew attention to the numerous different ways in which criminals can put poor food into the supply, from substantive olive oil getting labelled as premium, to cheap wine being labelled as premium. He also emphasised that the length of the food chain means there are “lots of opportunities for fraud,” calling for the food industry to “up its game” and take the threat of food fraud and criminal intent “really seriously.” Although Reilly did admit that food fraud is “not rampant” in Ireland, he stressed, “we have to be mindful that there is an opportunity for it to happen,” and called for more “robust control systems”, such as those introduced for suppliers for meat testing. A new food fraud taskforce has been established by the FSAI, including customs and the Gardaí, as food inspection bodies are “not trained as forensic scientists,” Reilly said.

Lily O’Briens has secured a listing with 500 UK Tesco stores in time for Christmas. The Kildare-based chocolate producer gained the listing after it took part in the ongoing Tesco/Bord Bia Supplier Development Programme. The deal with the UK stores is expected to be worth over €1 million per year for both seasonal and non-seasonal products. Founded in 1992 by Marry Ann O’Brien, the chocolate maker now employs 120 people and exports to many countries abroad including the US, Australia and UK. Fresh food commercial category director of Tesco, Malachy O’Connor said that Lily O’Briens is one of the great success of the Tesco and Bord Bia Supplier Development Programme. He said, “This is a platform that has worked very well to help companies like Glenilen and Green Saffron in recent years to reach an international market.”

Tesco has begun selling vegetables classified as irregular in shape or size, marketing them as ‘Wonky Veg’, in an attempt to support Irish growers and reduce food waste. The range will be introduced with carrots and mushrooms at first, although the offering can be expanded upon, depending on customer response, said Tesco Ireland’s fresh buyer Sinead McDonogh. Tesco buys nearly five million packs of Irish carrots, from Leo Dunne in Co. Laois and John Dockrell’s in Co. Wexford each year. Meanwhile closed cup mushrooms are sourced from Codd Mushrooms in Carlow and Kerrigan’s Mushroooms in Meath. Leslie Codd, owner of Codd Mushrooms said: “Every year Irish vegetable growers discard millions of kilos of produce on the grounds of appearance. The reason for this is that customers have become used to buying perfect-looking vegetables. [...] If customers bought this ‘wonky-looking’ veg more, it would greatly reduce wastage at farm level.” This move coincides with the retailer's commitment to reducing food waste, following the recent announcements of partnerships with foodcloud and Bia Food Initiative (BiaFi).

Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Eddie Downey announced at the National Ploughing Championships that cattle prices are turning. “With an increase of 27c/kg or €100 per head in finished cattle prices in our main export in the UK since early July, there is major potential for Irish cattle prices to increase substantially,” he said. Downey added that prices are going to need to increase significantly to ensure production costs can be covered and leave a margin for the farmers. He added that the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must get involved centre stage, in order to resolve issues surrounding difficulties with factories in the beef sector. Farmers cannot understand why the minister is so unwilling to assist beef producers, who have the lowest income in farming, Downey said.

The FSAI are hosting a Small Business Start-Up Seminar in Cork on food hygiene and safety. The free, half day event on October 9 in the Silver Springs Moran Hotel will cover everything a new business needs to know about setting up a food company. A representative from the Environmental Health Service will detail how to register your food business and what to expect from an inspection. A new product development expert from Teagasc will outline what is involved in developing a new food product, and a small food business owner will outline their recent experience in setting up a food business. There will be a number of Q&A sessions throughout the morning and the experts will also be available after the event closes for further discussion. The event runs from 8 am to 12.45 pm. Register at www.fsai.ie 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Simon Coveney has said that he has little influence on making retailers abroad pay more for exports of Irish beef. Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships last week, the Minister said, “I’m not going to be able to influence a retailer in Barcelona or in Paris or Berlin to pay more for Irish beef when they can source beef from elsewhere. We need to be price competitive.” However, he also said that beef is a huge priority for him, as it is the “heartbeat of the rural community.” He continued, “What we need to do collectively as a European Union is to ensure that primary producers of food get a fair share of market price on the retail shelf. Ten years ago, primary producers would have been getting in or around 30% of the final price. They are now getting less than 20% in many cases for a lot of food products, and that’s because of the way the retail sector has moved.” Part of this issue Coveney said, came from supermarket chains who drive a harder bargain than primary producers. Minister Coveney said that the taxation on agricultural measures in next month’s Budget will be “very progressive”.

© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Genna Patterson and Emily Horne.

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