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British consumers flock to farm stores in wake of Covid-19

British consumers flock to farm stores in wake of Covid-19 © Kotomi_ (Flickr)

© Kotomi_ (Flickr, Rights reserved


Research published by Barclays reveals how British consumers have changed their grocery shopping habits as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. One quarter of UK consumers now claim to buy produce in local shops and farm stores, instead of supermarket-only purchasing, reports The Financial. Over 7 million consumers who had never visited a farm shop prior to the pandemic now visit regularly. In addition, 63 per cent of Brits claim they will be buying more home-grown produce as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.

The research uncovers an appetite for sustainably sourced foods, with just under half looking to purchase seasonal produce, an indication that consumers recognise their role in helping the sector become carbon neutral. Additionally, just over half believe grocery shopping from local stores and farm shops is better for the environment, and 45 per cent think purchasing from these outlets helps them to better understand where their produce has come from. Around two thirds of farmers plan to sell and process at least some of their produce locally within the next three years.

British consumers are keen to understand how they can further reduce their carbon footprint, with 56 per cent wanting to support farmers more so the industry can become carbon neutral. Nearly half of those surveyed suggest they would like to see a dedicated aisle in shops for sustainably sourced foods, and 61 per cent think that shops need to provide better information on how shoppers can improve their carbon footprint. This would be hugely helpful for the industry’s ambitions, as 45 per cent of respondents didn’t know if it was possible to buy carbon neutral foods.

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Spanish supermarkets gain market share during Covid-19 lockdown

Spanish supermarkets gain market share during Covid-19 lockdown


In 2019, Spanish supermarket sales increased by 4% to €60.3 billion, according to Euromonitor data. Supermarket sales are expected to grow by 3% in the next five years. The retail competitive landscape in Spain is highly fragmented, but led by major grocery retailers. Mercadona retained its leadership in 2019, followed by Carrefour. In the medium term, internet retailing is expected to see the fastest growth. Grocery retail in Spain consists of hypermarkets/supermarkets, convenience stores, major discount stores and specialised stores coexisting alongside traditional corner grocery stores and open- air markets. 

The total number of retail outlets has decreased over the past decade and the consolidation of the retail food industry continues. The State of Emergency brought a whole new meaning and value to proximity shopping. With the saturation of online channels and the government-mandated movement restrictions, proximity shopping became key for many Spanish consumers. This led to regional supermarket chains multiplying their sales during the first two months of lockdown. This rise in sales reinforced their market share in a sector typically dominated by large operators in the market. The fact that regional chains gained so much ground in Spain during the pandemic is a unique phenomenon in the European region.

The other frontrunner during the pandemic has been online retail, with ecommerce fresh product sales rising 141%. The profile of consumers reached through this channel has changed, too, with over 65-year-olds increasing their online purchases by 210%. According to Alimarket, eCommerce increased by 115% in value and gained 15.5% more buyers.  In the cities of Barcelona or Madrid, online sales have already reached almost 5%, in line with other European capitals. 

The COVID-19 crisis revitalised consumer preferences for domestic foods (or food patriotism) around the world. In Spain, this trend is expected to continue beyond the pandemic. Spanish consumers indicate that they are now paying more attention to the origin of products. In response to this sentiment, some retailers have launched initiatives to promote the consumption of Spanish products. The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture has also placed great emphasis on encouraging consumers and distributors to support farmers by buying local.  

Photo: Mercadona Spain

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Co-op UK expands robot delivery network

Co-op UK expands robot delivery network, © The Mirror
© The Mirror


Since the lockdown, Co-op UK has seen a surge in demand for its robot delivery service, with average transaction values quadrupling. This has prompted the retailer to expand the system to six new locations, taking the total to eight, and will now offer a range of over 1,000 items for same-day delivery. The retailer partnered with Starship Technologies to offer same-day delivery via its autonomous robots in Milton Keynes since 2018, 

NHS workers using the service will also not be charged for delivery, and the robots were programmed to stop at 8pm every Thursday as the nation applauded the health service.

Co-op’s head of online development, Jason Perry, said, “Quality, ease and convenience is at the core of our approach and we continue to innovate and expand access to our products online in order to offer greater flexibility and choice to meet consumer needs in our communities.” 

In March Starship Technologies, which also delivers for Tesco, announced it was expanding deliveries in its hometown of Milton Keynes to Monkston, Emerson Valley and Bletchley marking the first time deliveries are being made available in the centre of a UK town.These robots have now been expanded to over 100 cities across the globe and have carried out over 100,000 deliveries in the UK since 2018.

It also forms part of Co-op’s ambition to offer same-day delivery from 650 of its stores by the end of the year via partnerships with Starship Technologies, Deliveroo and Buymie, alongside its own delivery service.

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Japanese supermarket giant Aeon, in online grocery push

AEON organic retail store

AEON organic retail store

Credit: Aeon



Aeon is partnering with British online grocery pioneer Ocado to launch a new company by March 2020 that will use AI and robotics to deliver a cutting-edge digital experience. Also, as a sustainability initiative, Aeon has set up a platform to help boost organic farming in Japan, where demand is outstripping supply of organic food.


Fresh food delivery has yet to truly take off among the Japanese, who largely still pick up fresh produce on a daily basis. But with better logistic networks and different demographics – such as more dual-income households and senior citizens – that’s forecast to change. And with AmazonFresh already in Tokyo, and Walmart (owner of Aeon rival Seiyu) beefing up its online grocery delivery together with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, it’s no surprise that supermarket Aeon is also making the leap. In a statement in November, Aeon said it will leverage Ocado’s world leading know-how to launch and operate “the next generation online supermarket.” It plans to open its first customer fulfilment centre harnessing the Ocado Smart Platform by 2023 to serve Japan’s Kanto region, followed by others over the following two years in order to eventually serve the whole country. And it anticipates achieving online grocery sales of about 600 billion yen (about €4.92b) by 2030. “Aeon will realise a highly efficient operations and distribution system to deliver ‘anytime, anywhere, anything’ through a superb application interface to meet our customer needs. It is expected that these technologies can be utilised for the existing Aeon online supermarket business, store pick up, click & collect,” the company said in a press release. Aeon also plans to seek more partners both in Japan and around the world in order to be at the forefront of the digital era. Ocado, it should be mentioned, has also been chosen as a partner by other major supermarket groups around the world, including Kroger in the US, Casino in France, Marks & Spencer in the UK, ICA in Sweden and Coles in Australia.

Produce from farms run by Aeon Agri Create // Credit: Aeon


A platform to boost organic production 

Two other key initiatives from Aeon are in the area of organic food. Back in 2017, among the sustainable procurement goals the group set itself was that of boosting the sales ratio of organic products to 5% of all its agricultural products by 2020, also when Tokyo will host the summer Olympics. Aeon says it wants to contribute to “human, social and environmental health” through organic products, furthermore ones that are “cultivated, distributed and consumed naturally.” It also says it is “responding to our customer demands for safer, better tasting, and environmentally friendly food products.” However, while interest in organic produce is on the rise in Japan, “supply of organic products has not caught up with growing consumer demand,” it says, and “organic JAS certified producers in Japan account for only 0.2% of all farmers.” Given this context, in September 2019 the retailer announced another initiative, the new Aeon Organic Alliance (AOA). In a statement, it said this platform will boost the supply of organic products and help farmers overcome the burden of high organic cultivation costs and those incurred due to inefficient distribution, as well as giving them opportunities to gain new skills, exchange information and share and solve issues together. The AOA platform will be used to “centrally manage production, procurement, processing, distribution, and sale of organic agriculture products.”

Organic produce in Bio c’ Bon store in Japan // Credit: Aeon


14 new organic stores in Japan

AOA members will also have access to technological know-how for the acquisition of Global G.A.P. and organic JAS certification. Aeon has acquired such expertise via the 20 farms it directly manages across Japan. The farms are operated by the company Aeon Agri Create and three hold organic JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) certification, one of which is the fully organic 16 ha Saitama Hidaka Farm. Aeon’s organic farms will serve as distribution bases that collect products from growers who are members of its organic alliance, thus reducing distribution and delivery costs while also facilitating joint purchasing of materials necessary for cultivation, which in turn lowers costs. Furthermore, an AOA website will share what is happening in stores, including customer feedback, product line-ups, and sales performance, as well as overseas trends and other relevant information. It will also serve as a communication platform for connecting producers. Another group subsidiary, Aeon Topvalu, develops Aeon’s private brand for organics, Topvalu Gurinai, which is sold in group stores across Japan. Also providing a sales outlet for organic produce in Japan are the Bio c’Bon stores operated by Aeon in partnership with French firm Bio c’ Bon. There are now 14 such stores in Japan.

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Amazon to open grocery store in California

Amazon is to open its first grocery store

Amazon is to open its first grocery store. The opening will take place in California in 2020 and confirms the giant retailer’s clear intent to carve out a share of the food market. Amazon has already shown its ambition in this direction with the 2017 acquisition of the Whole Foods chain and its 500 outlets for US$13.2 billion. Amazon already offers a grocery delivery service through Amazon Fresh, Prime Now and Amazon Go. Rumours of the move to open a new chain of grocery stores were first published by The Wall Street Journal in March, but had not been confirmed. According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is also planning to open stores in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The name of the stores has not yet been publically announced.

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Tesco returns to growth as British shoppers spend more on groceries



The British grocery market is growing at 1.1%, the fastest rate since June 2014, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Its grocery share figures for the 12 weeks to February 1 also show:

  • Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, returned to growth for the first time since January 2014, increasing sales 0.3% on the same time last year, but its overall market share fell to 29%, down 0.2 percentage points on last year.

  • Asda reclaimed the title of second largest retailer this period with 16.9% of the market, overtaking Sainsbury’s, which traditionally performs more strongly at Christmas than the rest of the year. But both grocers saw sales fall compared with a year ago – Asda by 1.7% and Sainsbury’s by 1.0%.

  • Morrisons’ sales fell 0.4%, the best performance from the Bradford-based retailer since December 2013.


uk grocery share.png

based on data for 12 weeks to February 1, 2015


Kantar Worldpanel head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt said Tesco is bouncing back from a tough year, with efforts to overhaul the supermarket attracting an additional 236,000 shoppers into its stores in the last 12 weeks.

“Early results suggest that discounters Aldi and Lidl will find their accelerated growth levels hard to match in 2015. Aldi’s growth of 21.2% is still impressive but a relative slowing from its 36% peak in May 2014. Likewise, Lidl’s maximum growth of 24% in the same period is now down to 14.2%. Despite this slowdown, both retailers are still taking share from the other retailers – rising 0.8 percentage points and 0.4 percentage points respectively to 4.9% and 3.5%,” he said.

At the premium end of the market, Waitrose has supported growth with a greater focus on price and promotion, delivering a 7.2% sales rise taking its overall share to 5.2%.

British grocery market accelerating

McKevitt said British shoppers are taking advantage of lower fuel prices and the ongoing supermarket price war to slightly increase their grocery spending. “This has pushed the market into 1.1% growth, low by historical standards but a considerable improvement compared to November 2014, when the market contracted.”

“All of the major grocers have continued to compete fiercely on price leading to like-for-like grocery prices falling by 1.2%. This is another record low, saving Britain’s shoppers £327 million over the past 12 weeks,” he said.

Tool for seeing latest rankings

Kantar Worldpanel now provides an online visualisation tool for its grocery market share data (including historical figures) here: