Food Lover’s Market group is cooking
First Eatery in Joburg is focused on lunchtime crowd
● 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.