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Latest insights: Blog2

How the Irish retail & food-to-go landscape is evolving

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

We’ve spent considerable time in-store around Dublin over recent months. Here's our assessment of the latest developments, the evolution of the market and of what could be next for this benchmark market.

1. Ireland remains a leader in food-to-go in retail in Europe.

There are some truly excellent stores to visit in this space across Ireland. Focusing on Dublin, on the supermarket side, SuperValu Knocklyon and Dunnes Stores at the Ilac Centre both stood out strongly to the various groups we've led on safaris around Dublin this year. The success of Irish convenience stores in developing enticing food-to-go propositions at the heart of their propositions is now well-known, but it continues to evolve and develop in the form of stores such as Derek Clarke’s latest Clancy Quay SPAR. Fresh the Good Food Market is a must see on any visit, its recently opened Dublin Landings store marks a further evolution for a highly impressive operation. At the same time, Mark Power’s Centra store at Millers Glen, near Swords, remains an excellent reference point for neighbourhood retailing, while Donnybrook Fair in Dundrum stands out across premium food-to-go and retail. Simply put, there remains a lot to be inspired by and to learn from the business approaches evident across the board in Ireland.

2. An expanding focus on food-for-later.

We’ve long maintained that anyone who has put the hard work in to develop the right set of credentials to support a quality food-to-go proposition has also created a strong bedrock for themselves in food-for-later – quality, taste and freshness are integral to each. The challenge is often realising the potential in meeting later in the day missions. And while it can be a hard opportunity to realise for food-to-go specialists, we’re seeing a stronger focus across the wider food retail market on developing attractive solutions in this space in Ireland. We saw strong examples across the supermarket sector, and the focus on more nutritionally balanced fit food style meals is well ahead of many other European markets. In our view this provides strong inspiration to those considering how to evolve their propositions in this space in the future.

3. New ways of thinking about partnerships and collaborations.

We’re seeing more activity in this space across Europe right now, with new types of collaborations under way from a variety of key players. But there are several boundary pushing examples in Ireland to learn from. From a broader roadside perspective, we’ve been impressed at how J14 Mayfield has blended existing global and local franchise concepts with its own proposition to create a unique roadside destination.

Meanwhile the collaboration of SuperValu with Happy Pear, with Happy Pear & Friends branding being the umbrella focus for the organics offer, stands out as a very differentiated approach, building on what is already a very well-known brand in this space. The Dunnes Stores strategy in this space also stands out: a combination of acquisitions and partnerships have enabled it to showcase specialism, expertise and elevated quality across a number of aspects of the proposition, not least in Sheridans cheese and James Whelan & Co butchers. What’s more, it takes learnings and best practice from these collaborations to apply to other parts of the store.

4. Local, provenance and freshness underpin retail and food-to-go propositions.

At one level this is demonstrated by the likes of Sprout & Co., there’s a focus on fresh ingredients sourced from its own farm, located in Co. Kildare. But the focus on local pervades across the market. There’s a strong commitment in place from leading retailers to help smaller suppliers to grow – the SuperValu Taste of Local initiative for example celebrates and extends a long-standing commitment to supporting local. Dunnes Stores also has a strong focus here.

5. A continuing focus on raising the bar.

With significant further concepts in development right now, this remains a market to watch and learn from. Look out for our forthcoming safari dates or get in touch to find out how a study tour could help upskill your team around future opportunities.

Specifically, for those currently trading in Ireland, here are three opportunities for development that we see right now:

  • Understand the impact of food halls. These are relatively underdeveloped in Ireland right now, though we believe this will change, based on developments in other cities. A Dublin food hall is currently preparing to open. It won't be the last. We see food halls as a major influence on retail format development over the next five years.

  • Get closer to the fuller breadth of food-to-go operators. Pret and Leon both now trade in Dublin - this may lead to more international operators targeting the city's on the move consumers.

  • Consider the evolution of new models. One we see as having direct links back to the Irish convenience market is Choice Market in Denver (check out our article here), but similarly in the US, the likes of Foxtrot are looking to play in a similar space, with a proposition cutting across convenience and food-to-go missions. Checkout free, just walk out style technology, such as that adopted by Amazon Fresh, Tesco GetGo and REWE, undoubtedly has a role to play in the future of convenience shopping missions. Similarly, new models such as Noahs in Denmark and Kitchen United in the US have the potential to target new missions and customers.


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