BWG Buyer Meets 5 SMEs in Citywest Hotel

The BWG Meet the Buyer Day took place on June 8th 2010.

BWG Cluster
The Meet the Buyer day took place on the morning of Tuesday June 8th in Citywest Hotel. The attendees includes Godfrey Lydon, IEA, Sheila Gallogly and John Hickie of Má, Edward Spelman, Dunhill Cuisine, John Dowling, JM Food Service, Michael Kyle, Kyle's Kitchen, Jane McEvoy, McEvoy Family Foods and Paul Walshe of Sunshine Juice. Katherine Carroll of Stable Diet and Rosita Moyles of JM Food Services arrived for one to one discussions.

Ciaran Finegan, the new Chilled Buyer introduced himself at the meeting and gave an in-depth presentation on the BWG business. He started by giving an overview of his career to date, his role in BWG and the BWG business. He worked in Tesco for 17 years and worked up from the shop floor into head office, working in buying roles in various categories.

He said that chilled is a new area for him. Regarding BWG, he said they have the wholesale side of the business (BWG Foodservice, Value Centre, XL) and retail (Spar and Eurospar and Mace). In total, they have 900 retail outlets (including 368 Spar, 70 Spar Express and 230 Mace stores) and 22 cash and carry businesses, some of which have temperature control. The total business is worth €1 billion.

The 5 Fresh stores are now part of the network as well. Regarding Mace, they have 2 distinct formats – those with forecourts and those with retail outlets. They are running TV advertising for Mace at the moment, using Brendan O’Connor. The Eurospar business is very much geared towards the multiple business and they have some company owned retail premises. Eurospar accounts for 25% of BWG’s business even though there are only 53 Eurospar stores. Spar accounts for 60% and Mace 15%.

Regarding suppliers, they have 450, of which 300 are Central Billing (CB) suppliers and 250 of their suppliers are Irish. There are 6 buyers in BWG. Consumers, he stated, want keen prices and good promotions. They are running Euro Crunch offers at present which is a basket of 7 key items at €1 each. This has worked well for them and drives footfall in their stores. He said that own label was hugely important to them. The Distribution issue was a key challenge for them. It is impossible to get to 900 stores every week. However it is possible and necessary to deliver weekly to all the Eurospars and others such as the Cantillon stores in Cork. This, he said, can be done by a CB Consolidator who has the route to market. Paul Walshe, he said, was one of these. One of the issues with small producers, he said, was when they scale up to go national. Gaps that exist locally may not exist nationally.

Regarding Central Billing, he outlined the advantages, but also the disadvantages. The latter include the fact you need to have EDI capability (expensive to install), staff, vehicles and he said BWG cannot involve regional suppliers in their national promotions. The CB Consolidators include Sunshine Juice, which does the sourcing of UK o/l product once a week in the UK and the Traditional Cheese Company (both preferred partners) and PRM, SHS and Horgans.

Sunshine Juice is going to many stores twice a week. He advised the companies to avoid sharing your route to market with competitor products although, he said, he knows this is not easy. 18% of stores have hot food counters/delis. The sandwich trade has suffered but he said there was still a big opportunity here. His colleague, Aidan Lambe, is the contact person for this part of the business.

Paul Walshe of Sunshine Juice introduced himself and gave a presentation on the Sunshine Juice business and how they work with BWG. He said Spar is a very important partner to them and he was previously involved in developing the Treehouse brand for Spar. He had 55 to 60 people working for him when juice bars were at their peak. As juice bars declined, they have re-invented themselves. He said he has a great team looking after the freshly squeezed juice and smoothies business (they have a plant in Carlow and produce under the Walshe’s brand name and own label). About 14 months ago they decided to set up a strong distribution business.

They had vans previously and one or two food partners but this was now focussed and sales driven with third party partners. This was the area he wanted to develop now. They started delivering Tropicana last year and Own Label pizza, chips, burgers and frozen garlic bread. He said that Ciaran, Joe and Daniel in BWG have a wish list of whay they want to carry. The latest project is the Glenmar range of red meat products. This is a range of 16 skus of pre-packed red meat with 6 to 8 days shelf life. They are all Bord Bia certified and is an alternative to the butchers counter. These products are being delivered twice a week to key Spar stores, using an automated online order model. He said a key to success is getting to know the people on the ground as this is how to get the pull through.

He advised them to meet and greet and get to know the people in Sunshine, the people in the Glennon or Cantillon stores etc. It’s also important to get to know the people in head office, especially regarding Eurospar. He said Sunshine will sit down once a week to go through the sales numbers with their sales reps or on your own sales system. He said promotional support and tastings are also important. He also mentioned the 30 ROAs (Regional Operating Advisors), who are the link with the office out in the trade. Each is versed in fresh, chilled, frozen and ambient and are worth getting to know.

He said that Sunshine will sit down and go through a distribution and sales strategy with each company. It’s important to grow in small steps and he said we’ll develop this with you. Orders are done via tele-sales system on a Friday; the product comes in on the Monday; it’s picked Monday night and delivered Tuesday. They have very close to zero stock holding. They deliver to 350 stores weekly and the option is there with 280 stores to deliver twice weekly. They are covering Donegal to Kerry. They are willing to grow to meet the distribution demands and have no capacity issues. He said the more cases, the better. They have 12-14 Merc vans which are frozen front and at chilled back. 4 have flexible walls. He said they can call into foodservice accounts but, at present, they don’t do this. They have plans for a new distribution centre in Carlow and have access to more transport as required.

12.00 – 2.30pm: Ciaran Finegan met each company for a one to one discussion for 30 minutes in a separate room. Sheila Gallogly gave a detailed questionnaire regarding the programme to the other participants to fill in while the one to ones were taking place. A light lunch of sandwiches and tea/coffee was delivered to the room at 12.45pm.

Mentoring of the five companies has now commenced.




The Channel Clusters Project was made possible through a financial contribution from the European Regional Development Fund Ireland Wales (INTERREG 4A) Programme 2007-2013.