Musgrave: Deal to sell goods via Chinese shopping company is 'potentially huge'

A deal for Irish wholesale and retail company Musgrave to sell SuperValu goods via China’s biggest online shopping company has been described as an "enormous opportunity" for the Irish food industry.

Musgrave has struck a deal with the Alibaba Group to sell 40 SuperValu own branded goods such as breakfast cereals, coffee, jam, biscuits in China. 

It will use Alibaba’s own Tmall Global e-commerce platform to sell directly to Chinese consumers.

The deal comes at an opportune time for Musgrave as Alibaba is currently preparing for a consumer war with American giant Amazon over the vast south east Asian market. 

Alibaba purchased online Singaporean grocer RedMart last month as well as e-commerce platform Lazada for $1bn (€960m), showing its determination to combat the impending arrival of Amazon. 

Alibaba actually outbid Amazon in its purchase of RedMart.

Alibaba intends to combat Amazon’s entrance into Asian territory by pushing its grocery division through RedMart and Tmall Global, which is an open business-to-consumer platform enabling businesses worldwide to reach China’s growing consumer market.

Musgrave, founded in 1876 in Cork by brothers Thomas and Stuart Musgrave, will open a flagship SuperValu e-commerce storefront on Tmall Global, making it the first Irish retailer with a presence on the platform. 

The SuperValu storefront will be offered over time as a potential route to market for Irish food producers seeking to access the Chinese market, which Musgrave said was honouring a commitment to Irish suppliers.

Alibaba’s logistics affiliate, Cainiao Network, will manage the distribution of Musgrave products.

As a storefront on Tmall Global, Musgrave will have access to key online promotional events in the Chinese calendar including the 8.8 and the 11.11 Global shopping festivals.

Musgrave CEO Chris Martin said: "In the past five years Chinese consumers are increasingly purchasing overseas through online shopping. 

"We expect that the heritage of SuperValu and the provenance of our products will be attractive to Chinese consumers. They are seeking out western foods from trusted sources and as we develop in China we will be working closely with Bord Bia and our Irish suppliers who have a reputation for authenticity and quality."

A spokesperson for Musgrave added that China was a great opportunity for not just Musgrave but for indigenous Irish food producers.

She said: "China is enormous so we have to do it right. We see it as a potentially huge opportunity for Irish suppliers. It is a route to a massive international market that local people in Ireland could never had have thought about tackling on their own. 

"We’re going to take that first step. The medium-term opportunities are enormous."

Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said that Musgrave -- which owns 1,400-store across seven brands -- had struck a lucrative deal with a major player in Chinese distribution.

He said: "Alibaba is a massive presence and is a leader in the online marketplace. To have a Cork-headquartered company as part of its offering is very significant indeed. 

"It is a great opportunity to showcase the best of Irish food and hopefully it will lead to more initiatives in the future."


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