SPAR India: A hypermarket known for value and differentiation

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The Dutch brand SPAR is the world’s largest voluntary retail chain with over 12,000 stores in 40 countries worldwide and meets the needs of over 13 million consumers every day. In India, SPAR Hypermarkets operates 20 stores across nine states. Progressive Grocer takes a look at how the retailer remains receptive to introducing new products across categories and the various innovations it has put in place to keep abreast of the fast-changing consumer buying trends.

SPAR India is part of the Landmark Group, a multinational conglomerate involved in retailing of apparel, footwear, consumer electronics, cosmetics and beauty products, home improvement and baby products. The Dutch brand SPAR is the world’s largest voluntary retail chain with over 12,000 stores in 40 countries worldwide and meets the needs of over 13 million consumers every day. In India, SPAR Hypermarkets came about as a license agreement between the Dubai-based Landmark Group’s Max Hypermarkets India Pvt. Ltd. and SPAR International.

SPAR is the world’s largest independent food retail chain, which operates on the principle of a ‘Cooperative of Independent Retailers and Wholesalers.’

In India, SPAR Hypermarkets operates over one million square feet area across 20 stores in nine cities, including Bengaluru, Mangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Chennai. The average store size is 40,000 sq.ft. and, between its 20 stores, SPAR serves 30 million customers annually. The retail chain crossed revenues of Rs 1,000 crore last year and has been clocking double digit growth of late.

“Approximately 60 percent of the shelf space is allocated to food categories and 40 percent to non food categories. As regards to the sales mix, over 65 percent is from food and the balance from non-food categories,” informs Rajeev Krishnan, Managing Director and CEO, SPAR Hypermarkets.

Customer profile at SPAR

SPAR Hypermarkets’ customers are family consumption groups with both value as well as aspirational needs. They range from the affluent segments to the pure value-seeking segments. The majority of customers belong to the 25+ age group. There is a healthy mix of demographics and age groups that visit the stores.

Merchandise and products

Food and grocery, fresh categories, FMCG, home furnishings and home ware, general merchandise and apparel are key categories around which SPAR has built its stores over the years. The brands it stocks and sells are leaders in all the categories. Besides, brands in SPAR stores also include numerous SMEs and MMEs who have brought great products to life.

The hypermarket offers a wholesome assortment covering fresh produce, fish & meat, staples, consumer packaged goods, home and living products, and more. Of late, SPAR Hypermarkets has begun offering even a wider range of products by adding new categories such as home furnishing, wooden handicrafts, kids’ toys, health and wellness products, among other newer categories.

Hypermarket with a distinct positioning

SPAR’s mission has always been to be a hypermarket that is known for value and differentiation. “Food, grocery and consumables have a higher share and drive our frequency while general merchandise, home and apparel play a different role. We are regularly reviewing all our categories to look for new and fun areas to expand into, innovative ideas to recreate what we already have and, of course, maintain high standards in what does well,” says Solai Shakthivel, Sr. Vice President – Foods Business at SPAR India. Health & Wellness, Convenience Lifestyle, Food Theatre, My Home, Millennial and Fresh are all the areas that the retailer is looking into to bring differentiation within.

New products and emerging trends

Food concepts, health and wellness range, organic, OTC, beauty, skin care are the new and emerging categories. “The aspiration levels of customers are going through an upward evolution. More and more customers are becoming aware of themselves, of what they consume and impact of the products they buy on their health and the world. And this is changing the way they look at their lives and what they consume,” opines Krishnan.

In keeping with the fast changing consumer buying trends, the retailer remains receptive to introducing new products across categories. “Today’s extremely busy consumers are not only looking at shopping regular basket items but are also looking at solutions from retailers. We see ‘convenience’ shopping as a big opportunity. Health & Wellness is again a very promising segment. As a consequence of the sedentary lifestyle most of us lead these days, pursuing an ‘active life’ has become a quest. We identify ourselves as contributing significantly in this space by offering a range of products and solutions to our shoppers,” remarks Krishnan.

“Our fresh produce categories are growing consistently. The main driver of this section is product quality and freshness, which is largely enabled by direct farm sourcing, continuous supply chain improvements, and in-store merchandising initiatives. New assortments also play a critical role here. We off er the widest range of fish and meat – both local and imported. Amongst fruit and vegetables, the organic, pesticide-free and exotic ranges are gaining good traction. Health and wellness related categories, which include low gluten, diabetic, low cholesterol, vitamin and mineral fortified, OTC ranges are also gaining momentum in our stores. Customers are becoming more discerning in their food habits and seeking out quality products for which they are happy to pay a little extra, particularly if they believe that these products are healthier options for the family,” notes Shakthivel.

Farmer connect program SPAR Hypermarkets is building relationships with the farming community towards educating farmers on new methods and new technology for improvement of in-farming processes. The fact that SPAR has access to worldwide best practices from the global farming community also helps to add value to the farmer connect program. SPAR also adds value in terms of consistent sourcing and pricing advantages for the farmer. And most importantly, it builds a partnership between the farming community towards better merchandising and customer engagement.

Health & wellness initiatives

‘Health is wealth’ is an age-old adage. “Of late, we are seeing a visible re-emergence of organic and healthy foods in our dietary plans, which are in keeping with this adage. A prominent trend towards healthy eating these days is the revival of interests in millets,” observes Krishnan.

He says that SPAR Hypermarkets is taking the health and wellness space very passionately. It is looking at enriching the lives of customers by bringing in interactive and innovative ways to educate them on living in a healthier manner.

Millets have been part of the Indian diet for ages and has been a popular choice because of its nutritional value and health benefi ts. While on the one hand, the general lifestyle and wellness trends for the urban populace point towards healthier food options, on the other hand, climate change is spurring a resurgence of millet cultivation in the country.

In keeping with the strong growing trend towards healthy eating and living, SPAR has been encouraging organic and locally grown products in all its stores across the country. This move emphasizes SPAR’s commitment to the health and wellness of its consumers and also demonstrates its focus to help farmers by making them its partners in the process.

SPAR Natural Range: SPAR has entered into partnerships with leading healthcare brands and professionals, building a complete program for customers with a health and wellness zone. This commitment toward health and nutrition has resulted in the allocation of a dedicated section in the stores called `SPAR Natural’. Within this dedicated zone, SPAR India is offering the widest variety of healthy food products or `superfoods’ like millets, herbs, seeds, and nuts. SPAR Natural also promotes organic brands of Indian origin. Organic and natural brands like 24 Mantra, Pure & Sure, Phalada Organics, Organic Tattva, Pronature, Turn Organic, and others are promoted under the SPAR Natural initiative.

SPAR Millet Mela: Another SPAR initiative to promote health and wellness is its program called Millet Mela. Millets are highly diverse and nutritious crops. They are rich in nutrients, minerals, fibre, and can reduce the risks of heart diseases and obesity. Millets are pocket-friendly, meet the daily nutrient requirement and makes one fi tter too. They are also resilient to climate change. Due to their inherent resilience, they are the right choice as crops to be cultivated in dry land areas, which give farmers a major hand in having a great source of income. In the meantime, consumers who are aware of healthy lifestyle choices prefer going for the healthy millets range.

With the potential of millets looking very bright and its positive implications on a healthy lifestyle, SPAR India has decided to leverage the ancient food grain with the help of farmers. This initiative is helping SPAR to not only empower farmers but also promote healthier alternatives that can be made available locally. Millets are coarse and tiny grains that are packed with protein, vitamins, fibre, and minerals. Jowar (sorghum), Ragi (finger millet), Korra (foxtail millet), Arke (kodo millet), Sama (little millet), Bajra (pearl millet), Chena/ Barr (proso millet) and Sanwa (barnyard millet) are all parts of the millets family.

To make millets a popular staple again, and to educate consumers about the goodness of millets and its health benefits, SPAR India organized the Millets Mela – a 25-day-long event that took place in all the SPAR outlets across the country. To spread awareness about the health benefits and nutritional excellence of millets, an exclusive zone was set up in all the stores. The entire range of millets was highlighted in the stores. Fun facts and recipes for delicious dishes were displayed exclusively for the Some 500 school children from all over the country visited the millet zones in the SPAR stores and were informed about why the grains should be part of their diet. In addition to the setting up of in-store millet zones, SPAR India also executed the online campaign #SayYesToMillets. Under the campaign, nutritional facts, recipes, and health benefits of millets were regularly posted on various social media platforms.

SPAR Natural Assortments Range: To promote the locally grown grains, SPAR natural assortment range features a variety of products made with them. SPAR Natural has products like savories, cookies, biscuits, and ready-to-cook products like Dosa mix, Idli mix, Pongal mix, Khichdi mix, Rava Dosa mix, Puliyogare mix, Bisibelebath, Kesari bath, millet-based health drinks, etc.

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