Changing eating habits creating appetite for new food firms

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Changing eating habits creating appetite for new food firms


Shane Crilly of Base Wood Fired Pizza. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Shane Crilly of Base Wood Fired Pizza. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The way Irish people are eating is changing, in urban areas particularly. Thanks to the success of German discounters Aldi and Lidl, value is high on the agenda. This has forced the likes of Marks & Spencer (not exactly known for being cheap) to tailor value messages specifically for its Irish food business. The economy may be doing well, but Irish consumers aren’t willing to loosen their purse strings for just anything.

Alongside the thrifty grocery shopping trend is a treat mentality, where consumers are willing to splash out for a bit of luxury, be it an artisan cheese from Cork or a pricey takeaway that can set a couple back well over €30.

This is borne out by numbers from food delivery services such as Just Eat and Deliveroo. While the working conditions of takeaway delivery bikers is causing growing discomfort among policymakers, swathes of people in Irish and international cities are more than happy to browse these food apps and get restaurant-style food delivered to their door. As they chow down on their stone-baked pizzas or pad Thai noodles, not too much thought is given to how it gets there – judging by the growth numbers for the segment.

Last Friday, rival Just Eat reported a 21pc rise in first-quarter orders to 61.4 million. In the UK, orders were up 7.4pc, while outside the UK orders surged 40pc thanks to growth in several international markets included Ireland. It is, however, under pressure – not because of slowing demand – but because of intense competition in this space from the lives of Deliveroo and Uber Eats, a relatively new entrant in Ireland. Deliveroo already generates over €48m of revenue in Ireland and has more than 1,100 bikers with very ambitious plans to grow these numbers over the next couple of years.

So perhaps it was inevitable that we would see some corporate activity in this quality ‘food on the go’ area. As reported in the Irish Times last week, Dunnes Stores is chasing Base Wood Fired Pizza, a Dublin phenomenon which raised the bar for Irish delivery pizza standards. It started off 10 years ago in Terenure promising to bring authentic Italian pizza to the people of Dublin 6. Owned by former Clongowes boy Shane Crilly, it has opened another five, as well as partnering with a small number of trendy city centre bars. It has its own fleet of delivery drivers.

While a takeover approach from Dunnes might seems like an odd match, it shows once again that Dunnes, which is increasingly going for treats rather than thrift, yearns to understand the fast-changing food market. And get a slice of future revenues.

Meanwhile, another top-end food business, Fallon & Byrne, is seeking €6m in investment with the help of Goodbody Stockbrokers.

It too is benefiting from the higher end of the market and indeed does a brisk business in pizza deliveries from its Rathmines restaurant, not too far from Base’s original premises.

But Fallon & Byrne is much more than pizzas. It started off in the city centre, with a good restaurant, wine bar and foodhall. In Rathmines it also does pizzas and crepes – all with plenty of culinary flair. A more formal restaurant from the group will open in another building in Rathmines in the coming months.

Fallon & Byrne’s foodhall has echoes of Donnybrook Fair, which Dunnes lost out on to Musgrave. But it is across several areas of modern eating habits. Dunnes could do a lot worse than taking a bite of Fallon & Byrne.

It was a reflection of the success of Primark, better known at Penneys to Irish shoppers, that there was a such a flurry of excitement both in the Irish and international press around reports that the value retail chain is working on plans for a click-and-collect service. The story was being traced back to a mention in a Davy report which suggested click and collect was ‘on the horizon’.

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The company later played down the story, saying it has “no plans in the near future to trial click and collect”.

Davy rarely gets such things wrong and based its comments on an interview given by the Primark chief executive Paul Marchant to industry bible Retail Week last month. In the interview he spoke frankly about online. He said that a transactional model would not work for the company’s business model.

“On the surface, we like the idea of click and collect. We think of it as a route to driving footfall to our stores and again giving the opportunity to showcase our fantastic offer, click and collect might be another route for doing that.

“So is that something we would consider? Yes. Is it something that we have in the current pipeline? No.

“But as a business which is continually challenging our operating model, click and collect is something that we will explore and if we can find a way of making a click-and-collect offer financially viable then maybe that’s something you’ll see in Primark in the future.”

Okay, so nothing immediate on click and collect but it is very much a live issue. As Marchant knows all too well, it would be unthinkable that any clothing retailer of scale is not seriously planning for a digital future.

Sunday Indo Business

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