Family and sustainability remain at the heart of Musgrave

As an integral part of each community where it operates, Musgrave takes great care to work with local focus and international ambition

Noel Keeley, chief executive, Musgrave: “Covid demonstrated that we can deliver exceptional outcomes, enabled by technology, passion, innovation and the collaboration of our teams” Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Retail giant Musgrave has been a winner in Ireland’s Best Managed Companies for 15 years, and this year is also the recipient of the Family Business Award in association with the Family Business Network. According to chief executive Noel Keeley, the vital element of the business making that success a reality is its people.

“They’re hugely committed to the business and to each other, and this really came to the fore during Covid,” Keeley said. “Colleagues across the island of Ireland in stores, in our operations and transport, came into work every day to keep the supply chain open and clean, ensuring that families had food on their tables. They took a real pride in supporting our customers, retail partners, and their communities.”

Covid challenge

Covid was one of the biggest challenges to hit the retail industry in a lifetime. As lockdowns forced many shop owners big and small to pull down the shutters, many were left scrambling to find ways to survive.

For Musgrave’s flagship retail chains Super Valu and Centra, the challenge had its own unique edge. Its stores remained open as essential services for their local communities, but it had to do so safely, both for employees and customers. It is a set of circumstances that put Musgrave and its people to the test.

“It demonstrates that we can deliver exceptional outcomes, enabled by technology, passion, innovation and the collaboration of our teams,” Keeley said.

“Our success is very much due to the commitment and enthusiasm of our people; by their passion for our business and by their relentless focus on quality and customer service; what we do, we do really well, and it’s our people that make that happen.”

Despite all of those challenges during a trying time, Musgrave maintained its family values that are core to its operations. It is a common theme in the company’s 150-year history.

Family and partners

“Our retail partners are brilliant at what they do,” Keeley said. “Of course, they provide an incredible shopping experience for customers but many of them are family run businesses that have been supporting their communities, local employment and local food producers for generations.”

Family is at the “at the heart of all that we do” at Musgrave, he added.

“Despite the fact that we’re a family business, we hold ourselves, and adhere, to the highest standards of corporate governance and management, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”

This is a large part of why Musgrave has been recognised as a Best Managed Company for 15 years and why they are the recipient of the Family Business Award in 2023.

Brand equity

Musgrave is behind two of Ireland’s most recognisable retail brands in SuperValu and Centra and is one of Ireland’s biggest and most successful companies. Despite its scale, it has constantly maintained those core family values that were present on day one.

A big part of maintaining that core, which Keeley describes as “our compass, our bedrock and cornerstone, our DNA”, is by staying connected to the local community.

Community initiatives

A long-running campaign is SuperValu’s sponsorship of the TidyTowns competition. For decades the competition has motivated towns, villages, and local communities to take pride in where they live, with hundreds of communities entering every year.

“We believe it has a significant impact on making our communities better places to live, work, play and visit. It is totally aligned to our commitment in making a positive impact in the communities we operate in,” Keeley said.

Last year, the programme announced €1.4 million in grant aid for over 930 TidyTowns groups nationwide after Trim in Co Meath took home the accolade of Ireland’s Tidiest Town in 2022.

Other Musgrave initiatives, such as Community Includes Everyone, supports local young people to get involved in sport, while SuperValu’s Food Academy programme, which recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary, aims to supports Ireland’s food and drink industry.

“Our stores and branches are rooted in communities across the island of Ireland; as a single force for good, each store supports local employment and the livelihoods of many families; and each retailer is committed to supporting vibrant and sustainable communities through sponsorship, volunteering and community initiatives.”

World issues at local scale

That community-driven mission has had to evolve with the times as the world’s pressing issues of climate change and sustainability hit home as local issues too. Musgrave’s strategy is focused around three areas: Caring for the Planet, Sourcing for Good, and Creating Vibrant Communities.

These three pillars are key for establishing a holistic approach to sustainability, touching on every part of the business. Musgrave aims to reach net zero carbon by 2040, a significant undertaking that involves working with each retail partner and collaborating with suppliers to reduce emissions across all its operations.

Sustainable transport

One part of that mission is making its vehicles and the transport of goods more sustainable. Earlier this year, the company announced that it has invested over €17 million in upgrading its fleet of trucks for greater fuel efficiency. The latest move in that effort is the roll-out of trucks powered by the biofuel, hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), an alternative to diesel with lower carbon emissions.

“We have one of Ireland’s largest fleets, with a network of over 500 vehicles. Our aim is that by 2030, half of the Musgrave fleet will operate on alternative fuel, with an overall ambition for the entire fleet to be net zero by 2040. HVO fuel comes with up to a 90% reduction in CO2 compared with diesel fuel.”

Furthermore, €25 million has been invested in SuperValu and Centra stores as part of a sustainability fund aimed at helping retail partners to reach the goal of net zero carbon by 2040.

Carbon ambitions

“A year later SuperValu and Centra retailers have already achieved a 9% carbon reduction, so [it’s] really important progress through initiatives like installing solar panels, installing more energy efficient refrigeration systems,” Keeley said.

“Packaging is also a key part of our strategy and at the moment, 96% of SuperValu and Centra packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable which has been great progress for our business.”

Growth and acquisition

Amid these investments, whether it is in local communities or ensuring a more sustainable future, Musgrave’s growth is showing little sign of slowing down with a string of recent acquisitions in Ireland and Britain, including the fine food distributor Ritter Courivaud.

Musgrave’s footprint reaches beyond the island of Ireland and its most recognisable Irish brands like SuperValu, Centra and Daybreak. Its Spanish supermarket chain Dialprix and wholesaler Dialsur extends its presence into Spain.

“Not only are we a family business, we support thousands of other family-run independent businesses and entrepreneurs across the island of Ireland, UK and Spain,” Keeley said.

Whether it’s in Ireland, the UK or Spain, Musgrave is remaining dedicated to its family values, local communities, and sustainability.

“We are embracing and investing in sustainability initiatives right across our business and we will continue to do that, in order to create a sustainable, successful, profitable business for future generations,” said Keeley.