Business

Africa’s largest independent retailer

Food Lover’s Market is the largest independent retailer in Africa, with over 130 Food Lover’s Market and 230 FreshStop stores.

Brothers Brian and Mike Coppin opened their first Fruit & Veg City in Access Park, Cape Town, in 1993. From this humble beginning, it has grown into one of the largest food retailers in Africa.

The company showed rapid growth, and its first franchisee-owned store opened in 1995 in Port Elizabeth. This model would allow the company to grow extraordinarily quickly and widely.

In 2009, the company launched its first FreshStop convenience stores, which are located in Caltex forecourts across South Africa. Today, it boasts over 230 stores.

Food Lover’s Market has expanded its offering by buying brands such as Seattle Coffee and Cape Roasters while also launching Market Liquors.

Most recently, Food Lover’s Eatery was launched as a standalone deli concept. Currently, the group has seven eateries – three in Cape Town and four in Johannesburg.

Source: Food Lover’s Eatery

Growth attracts interest from abroad

In 2015, Food Lover’s received investment from Actis, an investment company focused on emerging markets, with the aim of accelerating its African expansion.

Actis invested R760 million in Food Lover’s for a “substantial minority stake”. This indicates that the company is valued well north of R1.5 billion.

As part of this investment, Actis ensured that the founders, Brian and Mike Coppin, would stay on and continue to run the business.

Actis sees the food retail sector in South Africa, valued at R471 billion, continuing its historical growth of 9.5% annually for the foreseeable future.

To capture a larger share of this growing market, Food Lover’s launched a R400 million rollout plan in 2022 to upgrade its stores in South Africa and expand its footprint across Africa.

As part of this rollout plan, the company launched its new flagship market in Bothasig, Cape Town, which cost R100 million to set up.

It is intended to show what Food Lover’s stores will look like in the future and features state-of-the-art displays using animatronics in-store, including fruit and veg animated characters, a boat, and seagulls by its Harbourside fresh seafood counter.

Artist’s impression of Food Lover’s Bothasig

This “theatre of food experience” offering is central to the company, exemplified by its store in Bothasig, which aims to make grocery shopping akin to a theatrical experience with multiple sensory inputs and attractions.

Vital for this experience is the emphasis Food Lover’s places on fresh produce, which it buys directly from the market, giving them flexibility in pricing and offering.

To this end, Food Lover’s partnered with FVC International, the largest importer and exporter of fresh produce in South Africa.

The company now operates over 300 stores across its brands in Africa, the vast majority being in its home market of South Africa.

Its 22 stores outside of South Africa are located in 10 countries, including Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Mauritius.

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