Musgrave NI stores offer food for thought

Musgrave’s Sales Director for SuperValu and Centra tells Neighbourhood Retailer how both brands have come to dominate local convenience retailing.

Sales Director of SuperValu and Centra, Nigel Maxwell (pictured), has overseen a number of exciting innovations for both brands.

Centra stores have taken food-to-go to unparalleled heights, while SuperValu has launched a successful partnership with renowned chef Noel McMeel and rediscovered its relationship with local produce.

Speaking to Neighbourhood Retailer, Mr Maxwell said his approach to the latter has been about maximising what SuperValu does best.

“It’s a about having local stores owned by local independent retailers, selling local products,” he said. “It started this year and it’s a plan that’s already starting to bear fruit. We’ve experienced sales growth across the format. We’ve also tracked consumer opinion, with an independent body providing results showing consistent improvement.

“Customers like fresh local products and appreciate the store owner’s involvement in their local community.”

But it’s not only local shoppers’ perceptions that are improving. 100% of SuperValu’s beef is sourced locally and is Northern Ireland Farm Quality Assured and a recent independent consumer taste audit, conducted by Loughry College, found that SuperValu’s new and improved beef came out on top, beating a number of key competitors.

“We now have independent verification that we sell top quality beef and our Best Beef Ever launch only further enhanced this.”

Strengthening that message was the addition of Noel McMeel as SuperValu’s Ambassador Chef.

According to Nigel, Noel’s role is to help SuperValu connect with consumers across a range of platforms.

He said: “It’s really been a way to help us shout about our focus on quality local products. Noel came in earlier this year and has supported us at a number of events, such as our recent retailer showcase in the Galgorm.

“Noel was there, making fantastic dishes using our products. He’s very down-to-earth, and our retailers and their customers are responding well to his support. He’s also been involved with our Meet the Makers events, where SuperValu stores host local Northern Ireland suppliers – giving them the chance to meet the shopper face-to-face in their local store.”

Along with the locally sourced and farm quality assured beef, SuperValu also houses exciting local brands such as Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oils, ShortCross Gin, and many others.

“Part of our role has been to help local products get into the market,” Nigel said. “That’s a particularly important role for local convenience stores, as local producers find it much harder to get into the multiples.”

While the SuperValu brand has earned its reputation as a fresh food haven, the Centra format is developing into a food-to-go specialist. The recently opened Centra Cathedral Quarter in Belfast has sent tongues throughout the local retail industry wagging furiously.

“The offer and designs of the new Centra stores are all based on consumer research,” Nigel said. “We talked to consumers all across the country to find out what they wanted, and this is the result.

The days of relying on selling newspapers, tobacco, and the lottery are gone. It’s now about healthy, fresh, convenience, value and excellent service.”

Nigel also talked about the Centra’s new coffee brand, Frank & Honest, a response to the growing demand for barista style coffee in the city.

But it’s the unique food offer where Centra Cathedral Quarter has really set itself apart.

“Most convenience store delis will provide sandwiches and basic hot food, but the Cathedral Quarter store also has a Burrito bar, a Ribs & Wings bar, authentic Southern Style Chicken, and a Hot Carvery sandwich solution. It’s about giving the shopper choices – you can get something completely different every day.”

“The carvery has been a major hit,” he said. “It offers classic roast ham or beef fresh from the oven every morning. I suppose it’s a taste of home for many of the students that visit the store.

We’re really leading the way in Northern Ireland retail at that store. It’s functionally diverse, modern, and proving a huge success.”

According to Nigel, significant sums are being invested to roll out the new Centra and SuperValu formats across both networks.

Meanwhile, further work is ongoing to develop the fresh ranges, in-store bakery, fruit and veg and coffee offers.

“It’s a huge programme which is well underway,” said Nigel. “We will be rolling-out new concepts across our stores throughout next year.”

With the current format of SuperValu and Centra performing so well, we wanted to know what Nigel thought the formats would look like in ten years’ time.

“Obviously, the growth of digital technologies will soon play a bigger role in convenience retailing, but it’s difficult to predict exactly how that will look,” he said.

“But I’m also expecting to see the focus on healthy eating grow. It’s shifting at a pace and health is going to be number one.”

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