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Food-to-go in retail in Dublin: opportunity and outlook

Updated: 5 days ago


Dublin is a best-in-class market when it comes to food-to-go in retail, with a long tradition of development and innovation supporting this. Ahead of our Dublin food-to-go in retail safari on October 16, we look at how and why the market stands out and where we see it going next.


What's driven development?


Taking a step back, a question many ask is how has Ireland developed in this way? There are many factors to consider, but the entrepreneurial nature of independent store owners has certainly helped here. But across the wider sector, there's a real focus on learning and taking best practice from other markets. And underpinning much of the development has been the tradition of the in-store deli.

Drawn from the deli


If you’ve not visited stores in Ireland, you might not know the uniquely Irish definition of deli. Rather than the broader charcuterie style definition that applies in many markets, here it’s first and foremost about sandwiches and bread based food-to-go, traditionally made to order and highly customisable. This has underpinned the development of food-to-go in many ways, with the established nature of this key element in-store giving licence to grow into new food-to-go solutions and to build a broader, fresh focused, offering that without exception impresses our first time visitors in its ambition and scale. In fact, it’s already inspired many food-to-go innovations and developments across Europe and North America. 

Fresh at the heart


From a supermarket perspective, we’ve long been impressed at how fresh sections very much act as the beating heart of stores in Ireland. And this translates across to convenience stores, long heralded – and justifiably so – as global leaders in the food-to-go in retail space. From a supermarket perspective, store layouts that include food-for-now and food-for-later solutions within the core fresh section is something we see a providing a major filip to sales in both areas as components within a broader supermarket proposition.


Sub brand development and collaboration with partner brands underpinning many concepts


Irish retailers have long recognised how quality oriented and differentiated sub brands can help elevate a store’s appeal and drive stronger destination status. We’ve seen different approaches coming through here, whether through acquiring relevant brands to introduce them into the offer, partnering with relevant brands or developing differentiated concepts to drop into stores (as we’ve seen perhaps most notably with Frank & Honest coffee at Centra and SuperValu). Leading and innovative retailers have all long held an open mind in terms of partnerships and collaborations, which has enriched the overall sector. Not all will work, but all contribute towards the ultimate aim of developing food-to-go destination credentials. 


Inspired by and developing in tandem with food-to-go specialists


While Dublin as a city doesn’t have the scale of a London or a Paris, and therefore doesn’t have the scope for such extensive food-to-go specialist development, there’s nonetheless a lot to learn from specialists in this market. For us, Sprout & Co is a standout, and a destination for any Dublin visit, not least because of its own farm is one of its key suppliers, but the likes of BEAR Mrkt and Coolhand Coffee rank among a number of differentiated operators creating their own niches in the city.


Retailers focused on positioning themselves for food-to-go growth


We continue to support many clients in dedicated visits to see and understand what’s under way in the Irish market. And each year we run one of our ‘open’, or plug and play, safaris in its capital. This year’s session takes place on October 16 – fuller details here. But what’s next for Irish retailers and how could the opportunity evolve? Here are three focal points. 


  • Rationalising the cost base 


 Ireland is not immune to the challenges around labour and cost of labour that are impacting businesses across Europe. This creates opportunities for solutions that are less labour intensive in-store, and scope for an increased role for automation in some parts of the process.


  • Thinking more about new and different missions


Our recent article on Greggs highlighted how it is growing evening and delivery as part of its core operation, while another opportunity that many food-to-go specialists are looking to take advantage of is corporate catering. Leading Irish retailers credentials in this space give them a licence to play here that is beyond what you’d traditionally see for a food retailer. 


  • Keeping abreast of new concepts and innovations from leading European and North American markets. 


In particular, there’s some strong food hall inspiration that could provide an important part of the next stage of food-to-go in retail development across Ireland. This, combined with an opportunity to introduce new cuisines and solutions to the Irish food-to-go consumers’ palate, means there’s still lots to go for in this space.  Here are three questions that we think will shape developments here:


  • What’s right for customers now?

  • Where are suppliers’ strengths in terms of capability to support?

  • What does the longer term vision of food-to-go in retail, and what are the key steps towards reaching this?


Keen to find out more? Get in touch to find out more about how our safari solutions can inspire and drive innovation in your business, or sign up for our Dublin safari here.



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