The drive to local: Desi Derby

The drive to local: Desi Derby
Musgrave Management Profiles Fennell Photography 2021

Musgrave has always had a reputation for sourcing locally, and that approach stood it in great stead when the Covid-19 pandemic started to hit supply chains, says the company’s Director of Marketing, Desi Derby.

Unlike many of the big multiples that were facing shortages of products, Musgrave was able to keep shelves well stocked even in the early days when people were panic-buying, he says.

And that experience has now spurred Musgrave to source even more of its product locally, embarking on new deals with some of Northern Ireland’s best known producers, he says.

“Last year we began developing an exclusive range of evening meals and sides, branded SimpliDish by McAtamney’s who are based in Garvagh, Co.Antrim. Everything is produced locally on-site in Portglenone using locally sourced ingredients,” Desi says.

“SimpliDish has been a huge success for McAtamney’s  who increased employment and investment in their facilities as a result of the partnership.

“For Musgrave it has provided an exciting and delicious range of new evening meal solutions for our shoppers – consisting of almost 50 products and currently available in 49 SuperValu and Centra stores. We’ve ambitious plans to develop this brand and accelerate its rollout in 2022.

“We were also delighted to work with Northern Irish home-cook Suzie Lee who created five signature convenience dishes for the SimpliDish range last year.

“She very much shares our passion for local and is a real champion for promoting healthy eating and encouraging family time, and her dishes complement the rest of the range by providing quality, tasty meal solutions.”

Desi first joined the Musgrave Group in 2016 as Head of Marketing, and was appointed Director of Marketing, responsible for Musgrave NI’s SuperValu, Centra, Mace, Musgrave MarketPlace and Drinks Inc. brands in May 2017.

He also has responsibility for the Wholesale and Foodservice division across the Island of Ireland.

“Retail has formed a significant part of my working life – I spent the early part of my career in agencies in Belfast and Dublin, where I worked primarily with food manufacturing and food retail clients, including Tesco, before heading up the Strategic Development function for Lidl Ireland and Lidl Northern Ireland,” Desi says.

“Retail therefore is something I am very passionate about and I am proud of the role Musgrave plays in supporting the independent sector here.”

Local Matters

Musgrave is a sixth generation family-owned business with a 145-year history – with its ‘Growing Good Business’ ethos, supporting local is fundamental and always has been, Desi says.

“We spend £160 million every year on local food and drink, by working with over 3,000 local farmers and 150 local food and drink suppliers,” he says.

“Such a strong local supply chain has served us well as we navigated our way through recent Brexit and Covid-19 challenges. It has also ensured high levels of product availability in our stores unlike the shortages faced by other supermarkets here.”

And Musgrave’s retailers really stepped up during the pandemic, whether providing home deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable or investing in Covid-safe shopping environments, he says.

“However, being part of the community isn’t new for our brands – to date our SuperValu and Centra stores have raised £3.3 million for Action Cancer, which has helped keep the charity’s Big Bus on the road. It provides life-saving breast screening services to women aged 40 to 49 and 70 plus (outside of NHS screening age) and MOT health checks to men and women aged 16 and over, and around 25 of our stores each year welcome the Big Bus to their locations.

“Our Mace stores and Musgrave MarketPlace branches have raised £280,000 for NI Chest Heart and Stroke, which helps them provide vital care to many people living with these illnesses and also helps them deliver important prevention services.

“In addition to this, our retailers commit an additional £200,000 a year supporting almost 250 community projects from sponsorship of local youth and sports clubs, to product donations to schools and playgroups.”


The company also has an eye on the future and ensuring that it does its bit to protect the environment.

“Our SuperValu, Centra and Musgrave MarketPlace brands have just launched sustainability awareness and action campaigns, including an exciting tree planting initiative,” Desi says.

“Together with our shoppers we can build a more sustainable future, by helping to look after the planet we all share. Every month we’ll spotlight the tangible steps we’re taking to become more sustainable, whilst encouraging our shoppers to play their part.

“Today all our Musgrave owned stores are powered by 100% green electricity, while all new stores are fitted with LED energy-efficient lighting and top-grade energy efficient refrigeration. Our bags are made from 100% recycled materials and we’ve introduced an eco-friendly compostable packaging range in wholesale with plans to introduce a NEW Eco range in retail later this year.”

All Musgrave’s fresh beef and lamb is 100% local, and alongside the £160m it spends on local food and drink annually, this means less air-miles which is kinder to the environment.

“Looking forward, 100% of our own brand packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025,” Desi says.
“And our partnership with Fareshare, aimed at reducing food waste, will have donated 25,000 meals to local charities by the same date. We’re also on target to reduce our carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2040. This is just a small example of some of the step-changes we’re making or plan to make.”

Frank and Honest

“Our Frank and Honest coffee brand is a great example of sustainability. The brands takeaway cups and lids are 100% compostable and manufactured locally.

“Our coffee capsules are plastic-free and coffee beans are 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified with ‘green shipping’. We’ve also recently launched our Frank and Honest loyalty app which has replaced the paper loyalty cards across all our SuperValu and Centra stores. It’s vital that businesses lead by example and Musgrave is committed to making a real difference in this space.

“Musgrave is committed to our Local and Sustainability agenda. We remain focused on keeping community at the heart of everything we do and offering the best range and value in convenience we can to our shoppers.”

To read the full feature in the Neighbourhood Retailer Yearbook, click HERE.