Sunday Times

Food Lover’s Mar­ket group is cook­ing

First Eatery in Joburg is fo­cused on lunchtime crowd

- By ADELE SHEVEL Business · Food · Hunger · Food Industry · Healthy Living · Restaurants · Consumer Goods · Healthy Food · Social Issues · Society · Industries · Dining Out · Recreation · Johannesburg · Austria · Belgium · Cape Town · Christian Book Distributors · United States of America · Colombia · Seattle · Spar · Sandton · Eataly · Checkers · Woolworths Limited · Caltex Records

● Food Lover’s Mar­ket, which was launched 25 years ago, has evolved from a pure fresh fruit and veg­etable store known as Fruit & Veg City into sev­eral brands, the lat­est of which serves meals.

The first Jo­han­nes­burg-based Food Lover’s Eatery opened in Sand­ton last month at The Marc on Rivo­nia Road, a new shop­ping cen­tre where Vil­lage Walk used to be.

There are three other Food Lover’s EaterPay, ies, in the Cape Town CBD, sell­ing 10,000 to 15,000 meals a day be­tween them.

With its de­sign two years in the mak­ing, the Rivo­nia store feels like a so­phis­ti­cated food deli or food hall in a ma­jor cap­i­tal, along the lines of Eataly, the pop­u­lar open-plan food hall con­cept in the US.

Mike Cop­pin, who co-founded the Food Lover’s Mar­ket group with his brother Brian, said the qual­ity and va­ri­ety were un­ri­valled. He ex­pects it will be­come a reg­u­lar lunch des­ti­na­tion for lo­cal busi­nesses.

It has a strong fo­cus on con­ve­nience in both the store de­sign and ser­vice, and is ded­i­cated to of­fer­ing a fast lunch ser­vice.

“We find it’s work­ing re­ally well,” said Cop­pin.

“With world-class chefs and a highly trained team, Food Lover’s Eatery has al­ready proved to be the fastest gourmet lunch of­fer­ing in Sand­ton.”

The eater­ies of­fer mostly quick, restau­rant-type food, such as pizza, sushi and hot meals, in lo­ca­tions with many of­fice work­ers.

“These pro­fes­sion­als want restau­rant qual­ity food quickly — and don’t want to wait ages for a waiter,” said Cop­pin.

The store sits along­side a Seat­tle Cof­fee Co, a brand in which the group has a 51% stake.

Cop­pin said Seat­tle, which has 190 out­lets, wants to bring more of a food com­po­nent into its of­fer­ings — items such as baguettes, crois­sants and sand­wiches. At the mo­ment cof­fee still ac­counts for 95% of Seat­tle’s sales.

The group’s mother brand, Food Lover’s Mar­ket, has un­der­gone a trans­for­ma­tion in re­cent years. While 80% of its of­fer­ing is still fresh, Food Lover’s Mar­ket also sells pack­aged gro­cery prod­ucts, de­ter­gents and other house­hold goods, giv­ing it the feel of a su­per­mar­ket, but with a fo­cus on fresh food.

The group also owns the FreshS­top brand, with out­lets at Cal­tex ser­vice sta­tions. There are 285 of these out­lets with an­other 30 planned over the next 12 months.

The group also has 46 Mar­ket Liquors out­lets.

The com­pany, with sales turnover in ex­cess of R12bn a year, 17,000 em­ploy­ees and 550 stores across all of its brands in SA, is be­com­ing a force, giv­ing the likes of big listed groups such as Sho­prite/Check­ers, Pick n

These pro­fes­sion­als want restau­rant qual­ity food quickly Mike Cop­pin

Co-founder of the Food Lover’s Mar­ket group

Spar and Wool­worths com­pe­ti­tion.

Food Lover’s Mar­ket is one of the last few in­de­pen­dent food re­tail­ers of scale in Africa. It’s grow­ing its foot­print across the con­ti­nent, with more than 124 Food Lover’s Mar­ket stores and a pres­ence in 11 coun­tries.

Cop­pin said the group was build­ing 11 new Food Lover’s Mar­ket stores be­fore the end of the year. This week it opened one in Sed­iba Plaza in Hart­beespoort.

The group also owns FVC In­ter­na­tional, one of the largest ex­porters and im­porters of fresh pro­duce in SA.

The group is pri­vately owned, al­though emerg­ing-mar­ket in­vestor Ac­tis in­vested R760m in 2015.

Cop­pin said the mar­ket was tough at the mo­ment, with ev­ery­one fight­ing for mar­ket share and con­sumers feel­ing the pinch.

“We are still the best in the fresh pro­duce game … We are happy for our fresh pro­duce prices to be tested against any other re­tailer and we are con­fi­dent that no other ma­jor re­tailer can match us on fresh pro­duce prices,” said Cop­pin.

“This value-driven ap­proach also al­lows us to of­fer fan­tas­tic prices in our Food Lover’s Eatery stores.”

The Broll South African Re­tail Snapshot for the sec­ond quar­ter of this year found that re­gional shop­ping cen­tre re­search shows sup­port for gro­cery, su­per­mar­kets and food, ap­parel and home, phar­macy and per­sonal care. On the other hand, beauty sa­lons and spas, book stores and fine jew­ellery stores are un­der pres­sure, with lin­gerie and swimwear suf­fer­ing the worst, year on year.

The re­port said the pro­vi­sion of “shop­per­tain­ment” ac­tiv­i­ties and the abil­ity to of­fer some­thing unique are more vi­tal than ever.

 ?? Pic­ture: Alais­ter Rus­sell ?? Cus­tomers queue to buy lunch from Food Lovers Eatery Mar­ket in Sand­ton, Jo­han­nes­burg.
Pic­ture: Alais­ter Rus­sell Cus­tomers queue to buy lunch from Food Lovers Eatery Mar­ket in Sand­ton, Jo­han­nes­burg.
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