Food Lovers Market

Food Lover’s Market: the unlisted retail star

While SPAR has so far topped its peers in the listed sector in terms of performance this troubled year, it’s an unlisted company that is showing the most growth right now.

According to a report in Financial Mail, Food Lover’s Market has increased overall trading by 24% over the past six months compared with last year, which exceeds the rest of the market’s growth by 16%.

This is according to the group, and based on a basket of categories excluding liquor, using data from global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen.

Food Lover’s Market’s competitors showed an average growth of 8% based on the same categories. The statistics were reported at the end of September and reflect trade during the challenging retail conditions of SA’s harsher lockdowns.

The group was started in 1993 as Fruit & Veg City in Cape Town and today has over 120 stores in Southern Africa, including SA, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Malawi.

Its growth has involved several offshoots, including deli extension Food Lover’s Eatery, convenience store Fresh Stop, Market Liquors and Diamond Discount Liquors, and Seattle Coffee Company as its coffee partner. It has also expanded its offering beyond departments such as fruit, vegetables and butchery to include groceries and perishables, which were up by 37% for the year and 44% in the past six months.

Its founders are brothers Mike and Brian Coppin, and the company is now one of the biggest privately owned supermarket chains in the country.

It has a 12% market share in fresh produce and 8% in meat, according to CEO Brian Coppin.

With R250m invested in opening new stores and refurbishments across SA in the past six months, growth is expected to continue.

Emerging-market investor Actis invested R760m in Food Lover’s Market in 2015. The private equity company normally has a seven-to 10-year investment horizon, so it’s likely that Food Lover’s will see some corporate action in the next few years.

Evan Walker, portfolio manager at 36One Asset Management, says he has always thought Food Lover’s Market was a buyout target because of the expansion and success of the brand.

But as for listing, there are no plans on the table. Says Coppin: “We’re absolutely happy to stay independent.”

Source: Financial Mail