In an interview with Lorcan Roche Kelly at the launch of the 2024 Irish Farmers Journal KPMG Agribusiness Report, Lidl CEO for the island of Ireland JP Scally spoke of how consumers traded their way through the period of food price inflation which began in early 2022.

He told the audience that they took a series of measures, which, combined, helped to alleviate the financial impact.

One step was to switch from brands to private label and shoppers bought less per visit to the store, but made more visits for smaller shops.

Shoppers have become much more aware of promotions and target these more than they would have prior to rising prices.

Consumer trends

When asked about wider shopping trends, JP Scally identified growing demand for prepared consumer goods as their main growth category, with 15% volume growth year on year.

He also identified that this is presenting the retailer with something of a challenge, as there are “ready-meal supply limitations” and in the absence of engagement with the larger protein suppliers, they find themselves working with smaller manufacturers in this sector.

As for what ready meals people are buying, JP Scally identified “traditional and Italian as the core products, but interest in oriental flavours is growing”.

Retailer issues

As for what are the big issues for retailers, JP Scally identified security of supply as being absolutely critical. He joked that “maybe five years ago, I would have had to think about that answer but definitely not now”.

Being CEO for Lidl in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland led to the question about the similarity or difference in consumers either side of the border.

He responded that there were very different tastes and that they have a distinct range, particularly in bread, breakfast products and some ready meals in Northern Ireland stores.

As for Brexit, he says that he has “learned to live with it” and that they have made some sourcing changes to minimise the inconvenience.

“Prior to Brexit, 25% of our product used the UK land bridge, that is no longer the case.”

They have “halved what they sourced in Britain for the Irish market and fast tracked local sourcing for these products”.