Q&A Thought Leader Series: Ian Allen Managing Director SuperValu and Centra

June 20, 2022
Q&A Thought Leader Series: Ian Allen Managing Director SuperValu and Centra
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Guaranteed Irish Q&A Thought Leadership Series:

Ian Allen Managing Director SuperValu and Centra.


Firm name and address? 

Musgrave Group, Ballycurreen, Airport Road, Cork.


How many are employed there? 

41,000 jobs across 1,400 stores and offices.


What is the USP of the firm?

Musgrave is Ireland’s leading food retail, wholesale, and foodservice company, supporting more than 41,000 jobs with combined total retail sales of €5.4 billion.


As one of Europe’s most successful family-owned businesses with a 140-year heritage in food and brand innovation, we are proud to support thousands of retail and foodservice family businesses.


Every day we feed one in three people in Ireland through 11 market leading food and beverage brands that include SuperValu, Centra and Donnybrook Fair.


Our purpose is Growing Good Business, which means creating a sustainable, profitable business that benefits our local communities, our people, partners, shareholders, and the wider local economy. This is underpinned by our values that are about long-term stable relationships, working hard, not being greedy, achievement and honesty.


Our brands are successful because they meet the changing needs of today’s shoppers and are developed in collaboration with outstanding local entrepreneurs based in the communities they serve.


How do you engage with your local community? 

At Musgrave community is at the heart of everything we do - we believe in, and know first-hand, the power of community. Musgrave is committed to supporting local communities through our retail partners along with key corporate sponsorships at local and national level.


SuperValu is a long-standing partner of the SuperValu TidyTowns competition, having sponsored the competition for 30 years. Many of our retailers play an active role whether it is serving on a committee, volunteering or providing sponsorships to local committees.


SuperValu has been a sponsor of the GAA All Ireland Football Championship since 2010 and of the Cork LGFA since 2014. SuperValu’s partnership with the GAA is deep rooted in not only the national sponsorship but strengthened across the country with stores extending the partnership to sponsor county championships and local GAA Clubs.


In addition, Centra has a strong connection with the GAA and over the last 10 years, and has invested €9 million in the industry.


We have worked closely with AsIAm to raise awareness around Autism producing social media series, webinars and booklets to raise understanding and awareness of Autism. We’ve also rolled out Autism Friendly Shopping evenings to over 100 SuperValu stores.


Our Autism Friendly Towns initiative which shows that communities more accessible for autistic people are stronger, more sustainable places to live, has grown significantly to include 12 towns.


We partner with FoodCloud to donate food to charities and so far, we have donated 236,850 meals equating to 99.5 tonnes of food.


How has Musgrave prepared to have staff ‘return to work’ post Covid-19? 

Our new hybrid working model. WorkSmart@Musgrave, has been designed to offer employees flexibility as they begin returning to work in office locations.


We have invested in technology, physical and digital infrastructure and inclusive space design to ensure our employees are well-equipped to work both from home and from the office.


What are the challenges that your business has had to face as a result of Covid-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions imposed from March 2020 meant we had to deal with unprecedented consumer demand for the basics, sudden supply chain surges, social distancing measures and radical changes to our in-store processes.


In addition, like many other companies, we had to evolve and adapt to new ways of working and communicating, with many colleagues working from home during the lockdown. None of this has been easy, but it was made possible through the dedication and resilience shown by colleagues, and our partners as we work together to feed communities in challenging times.


Our retail partners went over and above in to help and serve the most vulnerable in our communities. They had once again shown themselves to be the backbone of our communities, with retail stores not only offering food and supplies, but comfort and support to local people in uncertain times.


What made you decide to become a member of Guaranteed Irish? 

Supporting Irish and buying local is part of our DNA, so Guaranteed Irish is an obvious and fitting partner for us. We are passionate believers in supporting local business and are proud to continue to support local producers across the country.


In fact, 75% of all our goods are sourced in Ireland, supporting over 1,800 Irish suppliers.


SuperValu recently launched the Taste of Local initiative, which showcases hundreds of small Irish food and drink producers in stores across the country. The 33 new Irish food and drink producers who have completed this year’s Food Academy programme now have their products available in the Taste of Local section in-store. SuperValu’s Food Academy programme currently supports 320 Irish food and drink producers, 52 weeks of the year. Producers recorded sales of €30 million in 2021, and have now sold a combined €200 million worth of produce in SuperValu since 2013.


The Guaranteed Irish symbol is the national symbol of trust in business in Ireland and its licenced mark is awarded to businesses based in Ireland that support sustainable jobs, contribute to our local communities, and are committed to Irish provenance. These are the very same factors that drive us at Musgrave to continue to do good business in Ireland.


Like Guaranteed Irish, we at Musgrave believe that making the choice to shop local means supporting local jobs in our communities throughout Ireland and helps to build a sustainable local economy for the future of Ireland.


Has being a member of Guaranteed Irish helped during Covid-19? 

Some 83% of consumers see the Guaranteed Irish mark as a way of helping the local economy through Covid-19, according to research, and part of that is down to the fact that people recognise the importance of supporting local economies through what has been an exceptionally challenging period.


Our membership of Guaranteed Irish has, over time, and through the pandemic, helped consumer recognition of the inherent Irishness of Musgrave and its brands. There has never been a more important time to support local and Irish, and when you shop with a Musgrave brand, you can rest assured that you are providing a vital boost to the local economy.


Guaranteed Irish promotes and represents businesses in Ireland who support jobs, community, and provenance, and as such, we are proud to be a member.


What are the current challenges facing the grocery retail sector?

At Musgrave we are keenly aware of both the scale and impact of price inflation right the way through the supply chain from producers to customers. We know that these issues are a cause of considerable concern. This inflation is primarily driven by commodity price inflation, reduced availability of certain products and political uncertainty.   


We are conscious of the pressures our customers and communities face at this time and will seek to ensure that we deliver best value, choice and quality.


Our retail partners are experiencing unprecedented rising energy costs, energy bills have doubled over the last few months. The cost of doing business continues to rise for retailers across the country. We are aware of the current plans around initiatives such as the introduction of the living wage, statutory sick pay, and pension auto-enrolment. We are concerned that the cumulative effect of all of these additional costs are not fully appreciated in terms of the costs and employment implications for retailers.


Has the cost-of-living impacted consumer shopping habits at SuperValu stores?

While Kantar is predicting a general drop off in retail sales across the board following the removal of Covid-19 restrictions and the return of hospitality we are confident that many of the innovations we have introduced and continue to build out our own brand offering through ranges including SuperValu Signature Tastes and Inspired By Centra, Freshly Prepared ready meals, Frank and Honest, Moo’d Ice Cream will help us sustain business going forward.


We are working hard to minimise the impact for our customers and to mitigate that at SuperValu and Centra we have thousands of promotions per week and over 6,000 own brand products. As inflation rises we can see an increase in demand for our own brand products.


What are Musgrave’s plans for expansion within EMEA?

As one of Ireland’s most trusted brands and a major supporter of local food producers, we want to share our quality and award-winning products with partners across the world. Musgrave announced in February that we had agreed a significant new partnership with Choithrams to supply the leading the United Arab Emirates based retailer with more than 500 products from its SuperValu own brand range alongside other Irish brands.


It also comes after our announcement last year that 250 SuperValu products have been made available across the UAE on noon Grocery, the Middle East’s largest online grocery marketplace and noon.com’s dedicated fresh grocery platform.


By using our expertise, resources and connections, we have been able to support Irish producers to launch into international markets. This has increased their profit, and allowed them to invest more in their businesses and employees in Ireland.


The Middle East has a large Irish expat community, while there is also a significant demand in the region for European brands. We are confident that the market leading convenience offering that the Musgrave brands bring will be highly desirable to the EMEA market.