Reeling In The Year: Highlights That Impacted The Grocery Retail Sector In 2019

By Donna Ahern
Reeling In The Year: Highlights That Impacted The Grocery Retail Sector In 2019

A concerted push towards sustainable retailing practices, uncertainty over Brexit and the resurgence of Irish brands, were some of the top stories in the Irish grocery retail sector in 2019. Checkout highlights these and other standout moments for the sector during the year.


Government To Stop Buying Single-Use Plastics In Public Service

On 4 January 2019, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, announced that no government department or agency would buy single-use plastic cups, cutlery or straws for use within their offices from that day forward.

This means that government departments, public bodies, and schools will lead the way in the response to cutting down on single-use plastics, with a number of measures, including no longer purchasing single-use plastic cups, cutlery and straws for use within their offices.


The Minister said that the public service must be the first to show that it takes policies for sustainability seriously if the government is to persuade the rest of society to follow suit.

As part of the move, all government departments will develop resource efficiency action plans by the end of June this year.

These plans will help staff make savings in energy and water use as well as preventing food waste and maximising recycling.

The Government is implementing these measures ahead of broader proposals relating to single-use plastic items being negotiated at EU level.



Health Trends Like Dry January Offer New Opportunities For Drinks Makers

New research from the IWSR has suggested that the movement of a wider health and wellness trend is gaining traction across the world, providing new opportunities for the global beverage alcohol industry.

The research came just as Dry January ended, and suggested that this trend has opened up the opportunity for drinks makers to develop new products.

The IWSR Global Opportunities in Low- and No-Alcohol report examines market sizing by volume, key players in the industry, on-trade analysis, product innovation, and important consumer trends.

According to the report, the low- and no-alcohol sector is poorly served, and the marketplace is small in most parts of the world.


The UK’s low- and no-alcohol beverages, for example, only represents 1.3% of the country’s total alcohol beverage market.

However, the market is expected to grow significantly in the future, as consumers are actively looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, ‘if they can find products that meet their taste expectations’.


Britons Stock Up On Toilet Rolls And Painkillers Ahead Of Brexit, Morrisons Says

Toilet rolls and painkillers are some of items Britons have started to stockpile ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit, supermarket Morrisons said on Wednesday, as it posted a rise in profit and paid its third special dividend in a year.


Chief Executive David Potts said there were signs of a 'small amount' of stockpiling and that Morrisons, Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket group, was well prepared whatever happened in the Brexit process.

With just 16 days to go until it is due to leave the European Union, Britain has still not agreed a withdrawal arrangement, raising the risk of a disorderly 'no-deal' Brexit.

"We've seen quite a tick-up in painkillers and toilet rolls (sales) ... up high single digits," Potts told reporters.

"In the event of things getting sticky at the ports, we'd look for alternative routes into the country," he added, saying the company had obtained Authorised Economic Operator status, which should speed-up border checks in the event of hold-ups.

Potts also said the firm had brought forward some purchases of goods and packaging materials to support its manufacturing division, and stockpiled popular 'cupboard fillers'.


Tributes Paid To Superquinn Founder Feargal Quinn Who Dies Aged 82

Superquinn supermarket chain founder, entrepreneur and former senator Feargal Quinn has passed away aged 82, following a short illness. Quinn is survived by his wife Denise, their five children, Eamonn, Stephen, Gillian, Donal and Zoe as well as his 19 grandchildren.

"The team at Checkout are saddened to hear of the passing of Feargal Quinn, who was a food visionary and pioneer of numerous forward-thinking innovations in the grocery retail sector that have stood the test of time," said Maev Martin, editor, Checkout Magazine.

"We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to his many colleagues and former employees in the industry." She added.

Quinn founded the national Superquinn supermarket chain in 1960, of which he remained non-executive president for some years after his family sold out their interest to Select Retail Holdings for €450 million in 2005.

The business was then subsequently sold to Musgrave Group in 2011.


Diageo Introduces 26 Weeks 'Fully Paid' Paternity Leave For Irish Dads

Diageo announced its plans to introduce 26 weeks, 'fully paid' paternity leave for new Irish fathers, employed by the company.

'In Ireland this means that from the start of the groups new financial year, 1 July, 2019, 26 weeks fully paid parental leave will be offered to all Diageo employees, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or how people become parents – via birth, adoption or surrogacy,' the Guinness-maker explained in a statement.

Diageo also said that it also setting a global minimum standard of four weeks paternity leave on full rate of pay in all markets, with a significant number of Diageo’s businesses moving to 26 weeks fully paid paternity leave including North America, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Australia amongst others.

In the statement, the drinks giant said that the business 'hopes the policy will support employees to focus on the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work, and ensuring women and men are supported to have time with their new baby regardless of where they live and work'.


Food And Soft Drink Prices In Ireland Among The Highest In Europe

Food and drink prices in Ireland are among the highest in the EU, it has been reported, with the Irish products costing 20% more than the EU average.

As reported by the Irish Independent, statistics from Eurostat show that Ireland is the fourth most expensive country for food and soft drinks.

This is despite Ireland's reputation for being an agricultural nation with a massive output. According to Eurostat, the average basket of goods in a shop is 120% higher in Ireland than the EU average.

Alcohol and tobacco prices are the second highest in the EU, reflecting heavy excise duty, while milk, cheese and eggs (21%), bread and cereals (19%), as well as meat products (5%) are all over the EU average.

Many analysts have had their say on the issue, with some believing that Irish consumers have simply been conditioned to pay more.

Economist with KBC Bank Austin Hughes reflected on the surprising fact that food is much cheaper in Germany and the UK than in Ireland, seeing as their retailers have such a presence here.


Circle K Launches High-powered Electric Vehicle Charging Network

Circle K launched its new high-powered electric vehicle charging network in association with IONITY a high-power charging provider.

“As we all come together in a concerted effort to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon emissions, there will be an increased demand for access to convenient fast charging points across the country," Incoming Circle K Ireland Managing Director Gordon Lawlor commented.

"In line with our ambition to make our customers lives a little easier every day, Circle K has already started on its journey to meet this demand and we want to play our role in facilitating a smooth transition to electric vehicle usage."

The IONITY high-powered charger has also been installed in Circle K Cashel in Tipperary with four more IONITY high powered charging stations set to be introduced over the next few months at key strategic motorway locations.

All charge stations will feature up to six high speed EV charge points, each with a 350kW of charging capacity.


Hershey Acquires Minority Stake In Fulfill

Fulfil Holdings Limited, the owner of the snacking brand Fulfil announced that The Hershey Company has made a minority investment in the brand.

Headquartered in Dublin, the company said in a statement that since its inception in 2016, it now outsells many traditional chocolate snack bar brands in the UK and Ireland.

Fulfil landed in Checkout's Top 100 Brands issue at a highly respectable 68th place in 2017. Last year, the brand pole-vaulted 19 places and secured the 49th position.

“This incredible success has come as a result of disrupting the traditional snacking market by delivering great-tasting bars with nutritional benefits—high protein, low sugar and essential vitamins,” Brian O’Sullivan, CEO of Fulfil Holdings said.

The protein bar maker said in a statement that the partnership with the US company will further propel its phenomenal growth and disruption of the snacking market across Europe and Australia.

In addition to the minority investment of Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c. in 2018, The Hershey Company investment is a key milestone in Fulfil’s business growth. “Our objective is to deliver great-tasting, nutritional snacking products to consumers worldwide," O’Sullivan added.

"Over the last 18 months we have built a highly capable management team and have developed an aggressive expansion strategy based on a thorough understanding of our target consumer."


Irish Brands Hold Their Own In Checkout’s Top 100 Brands

Ireland’s biggest brands put it up to their international counterparts in the latest edition of the Checkout Top 100 Brands, produced by Checkout magazine, the leading magazine for the grocery retail sector in Ireland, in association with Nielsen.

While Coca-Cola continues to lead the Top 100, occupying the number one position for the 15th year in a row, Brennan’s Bread (3rd), Avonmore (4th), and Lucozade (5th) all make the top five, indicating the level of loyalty that consumers have to Ireland’s biggest household names.

Tayto, which has consistently remained in the Top 10 of Checkout’s Top 100 Brands for a number of years and is celebrating 65 years as the Original Irish Crisp, comes in 6th in our rankings this year.

Other Irish brands making headway in this year’s list include Fulfil, which rises eight places this year, from the 49th to 41st position.

Although the brand was only launched in 2016, it has performed strongly in the Top 100 since it entered the rankings in 68th place, in 2017, and then it vaulted up to 49th place in 2018.

Carroll Meats have also made a big impact on the 2019 rankings, rising seven places, from 55th to 48th place this year.

The Checkout Top 100 Brands is based on branded value sales across the Irish grocery sector, making it the most accurate barometer of the biggest selling brands in the marketplace.

In compiling the report, Nielsen measures the sales performance of over 5,000 brands from over 200 product classes.


Irish Food And Drink Industry Responds To Budget 2020

Ireland presented a no-deal Brexit budget for 2020 on Tuesday 8 October 2019, pledging a €1.2 billion package to keep firms afloat by allowing the state's finances to return to deficit if Britain leaves the European Union without a transition period.

With Britain's latest scheduled exit from the EU just three weeks away, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe made the call last month to assume the worst, eschewing the tax cuts and spending hikes of recent years to set aside funds for exposed businesses.

Donohoe nevertheless gave the booming economy a €2.9 billion boost, mostly through pre-committed extra spending in areas such as infrastructure and public sector pay - a far cry from the savage austerity budgets required a decade ago after Ireland's financial crisis.

The Irish food and drink industry responded positively to the measures outlined in Budget 2020.

Commenting on Budget 2020 Paul Kelly, Director, Food Drink Ireland (FDI) Ireland said that if the support measures were rolled out efficiently and effectively, they could underpin the resilience of the agri-food sector, help maintain its UK market position as well as its ongoing focus on product and market diversification.


Ireland To Impose 'Latte Levy' By 2021 To Cut Plastic Waste

Ireland will impose a so-called latte levy on disposable coffee cups by 2021 in a bid to change consumer habits and cut the environmental impact from the use of single-use plastics, Minister of Communications, Climate Action & Environment Richard Bruton announced.

Ireland has begun to step up action to cut environmental impacts across its economy after exceeding its annual greenhouse gas emissions allocation for the third year running in 2018, pushing it further from its European Union-mandated commitments.

The government hopes the proposed levy of up to €0.25 per cup will encourage coffee drinkers to instead carry around reusable "Keep Cups" that already allow customers to claim a discount in some coffee shops.

The charge is among a number of new and increased levies to encourage more sustainable behaviour, including applying an increased €0.25 plastic bag levy to the more expensive medium weight plastic bags sold at supermarket tills.

Up to 200 million single use coffee cups are thrown away every year by Ireland's 4.9 million people, a government-funded report found last year.

Compostable cups that are made from biodegradable materials will also be hit by the levy, Bruton said, due to a lack of infrastructure in the retail sector to recycle packaging which has been in contact with food and drink.

The government will develop a second phase of levies from 2022, focused on take-away food containers, and a third phase in a timeframe to be determined to address food packaging in retail outlets including for bakery items, fruit and vegetables.


Lidl Reduces Chilled Products Price By Almost 90% On Best Before Date

Lidl Ireland has announced its plans to reduce the price on a range of its chilled food products by in the region of 90% on their best before date.

The discounter said that the news is a part of its new Lidl food waste initiative, ‘Waste Not’ which it has rolled out to all 200 Lidl stores across the island of Ireland.

The significant price reduction will be applied to items such as fresh meat, poultry, fish, and chilled products such as prepared salads, cooked meats, milk and yoghurts, essentially chilled food products that have 'reached their best before date but are still perfectly fresh and fine to eat'.

"Consumers are increasingly conscious of the products they buy," said Deirdre Ryan, head of corporate social responsibility at Lidl Ireland & Northern Ireland.

"They consider sustainability and waste before they make a purchasing decision."

Reduced products through ‘Waste Not’ will be clearly displayed and available to customers in a newly branded area, located in the chilled food section of all its nationwide stores. Each store will refresh the area once a day to include a wide range of products for purchase.

© 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern and Jamie Lane. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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