Belfast Telegraph

Spar director voices his concerns for the food sector

By Margaret Canning

A boss at Spar owner Henderson Group has said he's worried about the impact of a Brexit on the food retail sector.

Henderson Group's Neal Kelly raised concerns about a vote to leave as he addressed the Ulster Bank lunch at Balmoral Show yesterday.

Mr Kelly, director of fresh food at Henderson, which owns the Spar and Eurospar franchises in Northern Ireland and also has a foodservice arm, said the food retail sector would see "ripples of insecurity" whatever the vote.

"The result of the referendum will bring about great change regardless of the outcome, and I agree with Sir Howard (Davies) on that.

"The food and drink sector, whatever happens, will have ripples of insecurity, for quite some time. I especially think that will happen if there is a vote for Brexit, and that concerns me."

He said its large workforce of 2,995 made it one of Northern Ireland's biggest private employers. It now supplies 420 shops in the province, of which 80 are owned by Henderson.

The Henderson Group's roots go back to 1896, when John Henderson sold butter, cheese and eggs on the Old Lodge Road.

It bought the franchise for Spar in the 1960s after the brand was founded in Holland in 1932.

The name Spar is a Dutch acronym for 'good value and joint co-operation', Mr Kelly said.

He said the group "invested tirelessly in understanding consumer trends". That meant taking advantage of demographic trends - including the growth of single households and couple households.

And Mr Kelly said the company had to be nimble in the face of new legislation such as a sugar tax - and that it was even braced for a 'fat tax' over the next two to three years.

Belfast Telegraph