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Expert Talks: Ignacio García Magarzo, CEO of ASEDAS

15 May 2019

What does ASEDAS mean for the sector?

ASEDAS represents almost 70% of food retail in Spain. The Association is made up of different types of companies: regional and national; family-run businesses, cooperatives, franchises and listed companies; as well as Spain's two major purchasing centres. All of them show the diversity of the supermarket format and of Spanish food retail. This diversity constitutes a differentiating element of Spanish retail compared with neighbouring countries and guarantees great consumer choice both in ranges and purchasing formats.

What major challenges does the sector face?

The big challenge is summed up in one word: sustainability. This has three aspects: social, economic and environmental. In the first place, we have the challenge of maintaining the social function of the supermarket as a creator of wealth and employment where it operates and also the responsibility of bringing complete, varied, safe and competitively priced foods to all consumers, wherever they live. Secondly, the maintenance of the aforementioned social objectives is only possible with the economic sustainability of the companies that support them. And, thirdly, the contribution of the circular economy is vital in the fight against climate change and in safeguarding the planet's natural resources.

How have spaces devoted to meat products evolved? And spaces for fruit and vegetables?

Fresh products are a fundamental part of supermarkets and, in many cases, determine consumer preferences with regard to whether they go to one supermarket or another. They clearly reflect the transmission of the values of traditional commerce, which is the origin of most of our companies.

Supply side developments are heavily conditioned by the need to respond to the demands of each type of consumer. In this sense, products in supermarkets are available in bulk or loose formats, or as custom-cut items; and fruit, vegetables and meat for self-service. Pre-cut and ready to eat fresh fruit and vegetables are another of the great trends in the Fresh Cut Sector which is constantly growing; the fresh section also makes room for organic products, the same goes for products from local producers, which are increasingly important.

How much space is taken up by the consumption of fresh organic products?

There is an increasing presence of organically produced goods in response to consumer demand. This represents a small percentage compared to traditional agriculture because of its higher price and production is smaller. At this point, we must emphasise that the choice between ecological and traditional production is not determined by nutritional reasons but is related to environmental protection.

Convenience, precooked dishes, ... what do consumers demand?

Clearly, today’s consumer looks for convenience with regard to several aspects: proximity of the supermarket to their home, products which are easy to cook and consume, the possibility of purchasing everything in a single establishment, etc. In any case, we must not forget other factors that are very important in the choice of purchase, such as price and quality.

The commitment to sustainability, what does it mean in the fresh food market?

The first thing that must be pointed out is that the sustainability of the Agrippa-food chain is the responsibility of each and every one of the links that participate in it. No initiative can succeed in the medium term without everyone's participation and, therefore, it is increasingly important to have a global vision of the chain, to share practices and also the risks involved in its implementation.

Secondly, and going back to the concepts I outlined above, fresh products are very important for the sustainability of the chain as a whole. From food-based retail, we need a strong producer sector with the capacity to serve consumers the products they need to meet their needs. An efficient and competitive Agrippa-food chain also means development for rural areas, in which the local supermarket plays an important structuring role.

Bags, packaging, waste... what are we going to be seeing?

This is a period of change in which to adapt to the circular economy. This involves many challenges: adapting packaging and bags to biodegradable, recyclable and reusable materials, controlling ranges to fight against waste, energy efficiency, clean and efficient transport, etc. There are already many success stories regarding each of these aspects - one of the clearest is that supermarkets were the first businesses to take measures to reduce the use of plastic bags at checkouts - but we must continue moving forward until we reach European Union objectives.

Message to the industrial sector to adapt to retail and consumer requirements.

The main message is the need to encourage collaboration between the different actors in the Agrippa-food chain, including, of course, the industry, so that everyone is involved in finding the best way to serve consumers. In this sense, we must guide innovation, which will be more effective and will be better focused if it is carried out in a cooperative fashion between manufacturers and retail; we must share information, experiences and good practices, as this is the best formula to create beneficial synergies for everyone; we must share the risk involved in any innovation, and, finally, we must be flexible enough to cope with change, which is constant. In this regard, all players that influence consumer retail, including the administration, business associations and all the links in the Agrippa-food chain must be involved.