A place in the plan

Musgrave’s influence is growing, not only across Ireland but in other markets around the world. MD Michael McCormack has been telling Neighbourhood Retailer about the role that Northern Ireland plays…

All-island symbol operator, wholesaler and foodservice supplier, Musgrave, served notice of its intentions at the very beginning of 2017 when it announced a £100m commitment to the food and drink industry here as well as a £10m boost for its store network across the province.

It’s a bold move, but this is a sector where sustained and significant investment is crucial to ensure success.

And Musgrave knows its market well. It’s been operating north of the border since it opened the doors of its Duncrue Cash and Carry in the early 1980s. But in the Republic, where it leads the field as a grocery retailer and wholesaler, this sixth-generation family business has more than 140 years of experience on which to draw.

Beyond that, its decisions are informed by experience of the retail environment in Spain, where it employs nearly 1500 people in its burgeoning retail and cash-and-carry operations. And China, where it works with the country’s biggest e-commerce group, Alibaba, to supply 40 own-brand Musgrave products to a near limitless audience.

Its Northern Irish operations can be viewed within that context as a significant and expanding element of a global food and drink provider.

Different and better


Pictured are (l to r) SuperValu Comber store manager, Martin Reynolds and Michael McCormack, Managing Director, Musgrave, who are celebrating the completion of a £600k store revamp that will help to redefine the local convenience market. Press Eye/Kelvin Boyes

Musgrave’s managing director here in the north is Michael McCormack.  Musgrave employs around 5000 people in Northern Ireland who work across the company’s head office in Belfast; via their retailers at the Centra, SuperValu and Mace symbol network and in its foodservice wholesaler, MarketPlace.

“Our business is about building sustainable, profitable, omni-channel brands that are different and better,” Michael recently told Neighbourhood Retailer. “Our business model promotes partnering for success and works in partnership with thousands of other family businesses and their local communities on this island and further afield.”

Its NI operations are headquartered in Belfast, from where it administers its symbol network as well as MarketPlace outlets in Derry-Londonderry, Lurgan and Belfast; its Frank and Honest coffee brand and the new Chipmongers franchise, the first of which has now opened in Lisburn.

The Frank and Honest brand is a good example of the sort of the food leadership initiatives which Musgrave has sought to develop in recent years with its symbol retailing partners. Frank and Honest is now available in 58 Centra and SuperValu stores across Northern Ireland and the first branded, sit-in café opened at the SuperValu outlet in Comber late last year.

“We could see that the coffee market in Northern Ireland was changing fast,” says Michael McCormack. “Consumers’ expectations of coffee out-of-home were shifting from a speedy caffeine fix to a high quality, gastronomic experience.

“Our overall objective for Frank and Honest is to deliver the best quality coffee on the go, with a consistent coffee experience 100 per cent of the time.”

Michael says that the feedback from customers has been “incredibly positive” and promises that the roll-out of the brand across Northern Ireland will continue:

“Our passion for innovation at Musgrave has also seen the first Chipmongers – our modern take on the traditional fish and chip shop but with a twist – open in Northern Ireland in Lisburn with plans to open 14 more across Ireland. We also have an incredible ice cream brand, Moo’d, coming down the line and there will be other food leadership initiatives hot on their heels.”


Musgrave 2

Managing director of Musgrave, Michael McCormack

There was evidence of the promised £10m retail network upgrade in October when Musgrave unveiled the results of a £600,000 revamp at SuperValu Comber.

And Musgrave Marketplace also felt the benefit of investment in Q4 when a £1.1m upgrade of its Duncrue site was launched to the public:

“We now employ 182 people at the Duncrue site and we have experienced double digit growth when compared to the same period last year,” says Michael. “Musgrave MarketPlace has proved to be a huge success and we’re certain that the recent improvements will secure its future and help us increase footfall and revenue for many years to come.”

But it’s the £100m that Musgrave has promised for food and drink initiatives in the north that really promises to revolutionise its relationships with local producers:

“Sourcing local has always been important to Musgrave,” adds Michael. “And it’s only possible because of the excellent quality of Northern Ireland’s food and drink products. We are working with over 140 suppliers and selling more than 3,000 local products in our stores. We’ve significantly increased our spend in a number of categories, including beef, food service, craft beer, gin and meal solutions, and this represents more than 10 per cent growth year-on-year.”

Musgrave’s own-brand range, Fresh for You, currently comprises more than 100 individual products, all of them made by local producers from all over Northern Ireland, firms such as Willowbrook Foods, Strathroy Dairy, Gilfresh and Linden Foods.

“We want consumers to know that when they shop with us, their money is invested back into their local community through wages, local sourcing, professional services and charitable contributions,” continues Michael. “”Last year, we invested £2m into health initiatives in the Centra brand with the Live Every Day Campaign and SuperValu’s Lets’ Cook mission.”

Musgrave’s partnership with Action Cancer has been ongoing for many years and the group is still raising much-needed funds for the charity’s Big Bus and the Health Action Programme through Centra and SuperValu stores. The Big Bus mobile cancer detection unit travelled to more than 235 locations in 2017 to carry out health checks and mammograms in local communities, and the Health Action Programme continues to educate children about their health in a fun and engaging way.

“Musgrave is a family business and by working closely with other hardworking family businesses in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Spain, we have become a success story,” says Michael McCormack. “We are committed to continuing to innovate and inspire while always bringing value to the people with whom we work and serve every day via our business networks.”


Featured image: Pictured at the unveiling of a £1.1m upgrade at Musgrave MarketPlace Duncrue is Michael McGovern (third from left), who was one of the branch’s first customers when it first opened in 1983, with (l to r) Noel Keeley, managing director, Musgrave Wholesale Partners; Garry Williams, general manager, Musgrave MarketPlace and Michael McCormack. Credit – ©Press Eye/Darren Kidd

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