Focal point of our trade letter
When in Rome, do as the Romans do –what’s applicable to tourists is equally applicable to an international company like METRO. Being active in 35 countries, METRO faces an array of challenges that call for individual answers.
Analogue and digital strengthening of SMEs
For METRO, developing solutions that take country-specific circumstances into account is its bread and butter. Responsibility takes on many forms within this international trading company, ranging from assisting independent business owners, protecting the environment and boosting food safety to promoting regional produce and maintaining diversity and tradition. METRO is a partner to many small and medium-sized independent companies– and the focus is on their success. Taking India as an example, there are more than 12 million kirana stores in the country. These are traditional retail stores which are run by families for generations. Everyday items are stacked to the ceiling in space of just a few square metres, making these stores the firstport of call whenever anything is needed. They account for 95 per cent of retail in India – without them, supplying the population with everything it needs would be inconceivable.
METRO assists these independent business owners. For example, the wholesaler not only offers a wide range of products, but also lends support in the kirana stores’ acquisition of digital cash register systems to make payments more secure – a practical and important innovation. METRO also provides assistance with monetary matters, arranging straightforward financing if, for example, a kirana store is to be modernised.
Overcoming the entrepreneurial gap
The METRO International Own Business Study conducted in ten countries including for example France and China demonstrates that local entrepreneurship is valued. According to the study, more than half of those surveyed spoke in favour of helping to support local independent business owners. The study also shows that 48 per cent of all those surveyed were interested in starting their own business – although only 13 per cent considered the chances of their founding a company to be ‘very likely’. The full study can be found online at www.metroag.de/en/media-centre/publications
To overcome this ‘entrepreneurial gap’, MAKRO Cash & Carry Poland assists budding and existing self-employed retail business owners with its ODIDOfranchise, for example. ‘This concept helps the retailers to design their stores attractively and efficiently in terms of their product range,’ explains Eric Poirer, CEO of MAKRO Cash & Carry Poland. ‘There are now around 2,000 Business owners who are part of the ODIDO franchise,’ says Poirer. METRO lends ist support in financing issues, for example, or with the production of professional TV commercials.
A bespoke solution is required some 500 kilometres further east in Russia too, such as METRO EXPO. This trade fair is a platform for local Business owners in the food service sector, farmers, suppliers and authorities, and attracted close to 20,000 visitors in 2017. Industry representatives attend the fair to learn about the latest retail innovations and to develop professionally in more than 750 seminars and workshops.
There are now around 2,000 business owners who are part of the ODIDO franchise.Eric Poirer, CEO of MAKRO Cash & Carry Poland
Digitisation – an unique opportunity
To remain successful in the food and hospitality sector, there is no getting around digitisation. It is therefore a priority for METRO that its customers can benefit from the opportunities offered by digital innovations. An example of this can be found at METRO Cash & Carry stores in France, where the customers can produce their shopping lists digitally using the METRO scan app. The digital shopping list function is made available to the customers on scanners in-store, allowing them to easily compile a list of the items they want. This allows the customers to get their shopping done quickly and then focus on their core business.
The HoReCa Digital business unit focuses on the company-wide development and promotion of digital innovations in the food service sector. This is also where METRO’s start-up support programmes are based.
Sparing the environment with electric vehicles and vertical farming
Speed is the key when it comes to making deliveries to METRO customers. And the METRO Express delivery service in Vienna proves that, on top of this, acting economically and protecting the environment go hand in hand. The service makes carbon-neutral deliveries to restaurateurs using electric vehicles, with their goods being delivered within 3 hours.
METRO doesn’t only protect the climate on the roads, but also in its METRO Cash & Carry stores, for example with the concept of vertical farming, which METRO has been trialling in one of its stores in Berlin since 2015. This involves herbs and lettuce being grown in greenhouses right there in the store, thereby eliminating delivery journeys and the emissions these cause. ‘With vertical farming, we are exploring new paths in the area of food origins and production, and are making sustainable food accessible to our customers directly in the store,’ explains Fabio Ziemßen, Head of Food Innovation and Food Tech at METRO. The first restaurateurs are already using the vertical farming concept to grow their own herbs and lettuce in their restaurants. ‘This reduces food waste, because only the products that are actually served up are grown,’ explains Fabio Ziemßen.
At Real, resources and the environment are already being spared in the vegetable fields and on fruit plantations thanks to the permaculture concept. This ecological growing method does away with fertiliser, pesticides and additives, and contributes to biodiversity. The Real product range features a number of fruit and vegetable types grown using permaculture, including avocados, radishes and carrots – offering them just the way nature made them.
Top quality standards for the customers
The topic of food safety is fundamental to a trading company like METRO. Quality standards set at the government level are still under development in some countries, such as Pakistan, where the food business is going through a change: ‘In addition to the traditional street vendors, a landscape of modern supermarkets is emerging. And food safety is therefore becoming increasingly important, including with regard to competition,’ explains Sagar Mahmood Khan, head of quality assurance at METRO Cash & Carry Pakistan.
Safe food thanks to Star Farm
As a member of the ‘Star Farm Pakistan’ project, METRO has been promoting the development of quality standards since it entered the Pakistani market ten years ago and works with the Pakistani authorities in this area. As a result, around 17,000 farmers have so far been given training in compliance with international standards. METRO Cash & Carry Pakistan’s customers can trace the origins of the products thanks to the Star Farm traceability system.
Star Farm activities are not limited to Pakistan – the idea was originally developed and implemented in China. This made METRO China a pioneer in China in the area of food quality and safety.
Promoting regional produce – not only on the shelf
The importance of taking regional differences into account in business is also demonstrated by the way in which the different countries’ culinary specialities are dealt with. Regional products are a source of livelihood for many local smallholders, as shown by the example of Ukraine, where a fifth of the population lives on agriculture. METRO supports Ukrainian regional farmers ‘from the seed to the plate’, as is the motto of its Fermove initiative there. METRO starts by collecting orders for fruit and vegetables according to its customers’ requirements and then specifically assigns these orders to local smallholders, who are supplied with the seeds, fertiliser and expertise by an agricultural partner. The freshly produced fruit and vegetables then make it directly to the METRO Cash & Carry stores, where they are sold under the Fermove label.
Saving the Boškarin cow
Also in Croatia, METRO is supporting regional producers by maintaining a typically Croatian tradition – the rearing of Boškarin cows. This breed of cow from the region of Istria was threatened with extinction – in the 1990s, there were only approximately 100 left. Thanks to METRO’s cooperation with the Agency for the Rural Development of Istria (AZRRI) and with farmers in the region, the stocks of this breed were increased again, and there are now more than 3,500 Boškarin cows once again.
Measures of this kind don’t just maintain traditions – they also give the local producers a boost and promote food diversity.
A world of diversity
Saving the Boškarin cow, training approximately 17,000 farmers in Pakistan, protecting nature by means of permaculture and vertical farming, and supporting kirana store operators: the world of trade and retail is highly diverse, just like METRO’s solutions, in keeping with the motto of ‘Acting today for tomorrow’.