Mercaurantes: how the supermarkets have entered the foodservice war

The major supermarkets are seeking a place in the Horeca industry. The main retail brands have acknowledged the latest consumer trends (we don’t have time to cook and only do so as a hobby) and begun offering ready-to-eat products on their premises and home delivery services.

The convenience food sector should expect to be very busy over the next few years. With growth far greater than that of the rest of the hospitality business, innovations are emerging almost every month in this still-fledgling segment. One that has attracted particular attention is the transformation of supermarkets into mercaurantes, known as grocerants in English, which are expected to generate a significant impact.

Mercaurantes, an expression coined at the AECOC’s Horeca Congress in May 2019, are supermarkets that strategically support the ready-to-eat concept. Some supermarkets have served ready-to-eat products for a number of years but, in recent months, the approximation to the catering concept has become more evident with the increase in the range of meals on offer, agreements with home delivery service platforms, areas suitable for the consumption of the products on the premises, on-site cooking of the supermarket’s fresh produce and so on.

Grocerants, a trend in the USA

A strategic future

Pablo de la Rica, the AECOC’s retail knowledge manager, explains the great importance the sale of ready-to-eat products is acquiring in the June issue of the Código 84 magazine: “Foodservice is a priority issue for all retailers. It’s on all the management agendas”.

The major change of course proposed within the supermarket sector is due to Mercadona’s penetration into the foodservice business in late 2018. The chain, with more than 1,700 outlets and the same market share as its four main rivals put together, presented its ready-to-eat model, one it wishes to implement at 20% of its network stores by the end of 2019. This move by the Spanish retail leader will lead to a speedier “restaurantization” of all the supermarkets.

What do mercaurantes offer?

As of September 2019, the supermarkets that are being transformed into restaurants are basing their offer on serving rapid consumption products on the premises or preparing them as takeaway meals. All the brands are attempting to position themselves vis-à-vis their consumers and their initiatives are already having an influence on menus in restaurants, bars and cafés.

1-. Breakfasts

Dia is one retailer that provides appetizing breakfasts for its customers, with competitively-priced coffee, pastries, sandwiches and freshly-squeezed juices at its Dia&Go stores. Just like a café. This trial, launched by the company in early 2018, has stood the test of time. At the beginning of 2019 squeezed juice accounted for about 1.5% of sales at Dia&Go, constituting its best-selling product together with the roast chicken, also served as ready-to-eat food. Dia has been perfecting its breakfasts with two kinds of coffee and different types of milk, pastries and savoury products.

2-. Eating area

We said so earlier: Mercadona is installing tables and chairs at some of its stores to enable its customers to consume its ready-to-eat products. Corners, small restaurants inside the supermarkets, are appearing in some of them. The supermarkets of the future will be spaces for sharing and socializing, unlike those we know today.

3-. Home delivery service

Supermarkets are reaching agreements with home delivery service platforms. Carrefour already offers its ready-to-eat products on the Glovo platform. Sushi, which has been on sale at some of its stores in large cities for a number of years, and complete menus at highly competitive prices are to be found in this aggregator. The delivery platforms, which have begun to offer their own supermarket services, will include more and more ready meals produced by the large retail chains. The competition is blurring with the advent of these new contexts.

This is what Carrefour looks like on the Glovo app

4-. New concepts

The transformation of the powerful supermarkets into mercaurantes has also led to the emergence of ever more striking hybrid concepts. Pablo de la Rica from the AECOC mentions Ametller Origen, a Catalan distributor whose commitment to foodservice is so great that it has assigned more square metres to ready meals than to the store itself at its latest openings.

In fact, its website features a section on its three Ametller Origen restaurants, all located in the province of Barcelona.

In addition, its Horeca division distributes not only fresh products (fruit and vegetables) but also ready-to-eat fourth and fifth-range dishes to restaurants.

5-. Cooked fresh fish

This move has already been made by some Catalan retailers. Plusfresc, for example, allows its customers to choose some fish and the garnish they want it to be cooked with (garlic, onion, parsley, etc.) and take the meal home, baked and ready to eat. BM, from the Uvesco group operating in Asturias, Cantabria, Euskadi, Navarre, La Rioja and Madrid, provides this service at some of its stores.

6-. Fast food: Pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs, wraps

In gastronomic terms mercaurantes generally serve fast food. Carrefour, a sushi specialist, has incorporated Bonpreu’s freshly-baked pizzas, which customers can take home in keeping with the takeaway model. Lidl to Go offers its customers hamburgers, hot dogs and wraps as part of what is still, according to the German brand, a pilot test. As we mentioned above, roast chicken is one of the greatest hits at Dia and Carrefour.

Mercadona’s ready-to-eat section

Rodrigo Domínguez (Barra de Ideas)

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Alimentaria & HOSTELCO
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