Fresh food franchise to open 700 minimarkets

 In Food distribution, Food retail and distribution, Franchising, News, NFTs

Food suppliers Aqui é Fresco which has already made a €500 million turnover, is to open 700 stores nationwide.

The chain of independent mini-marts and small supermarkets which started 12 years ago with 143 small groceries in the sector, will open 30 new stores in 2024 in a “challenging year marked by uncertainty”.
According to an interview in Negócios, Aqui é Fresco started in 2011 on the heels of the financial crisis that engulfed Portugal in the worst recession it had seen in 40 years, and saw many local and out-of-town cash & carries, supermarkets and mini-markets without wholesale providers.
The folding of these suppliers left local suburban grocers in a weak situation regarding the competition from the large hypermarkets.
It was then that wholesaler Unimark decided to throw a lifebuoy to save the small food retail outlets and in January 2012 created the brand chain Aqui é Fresco (AéF). It started out with attracting 142 small grocers to “give them back the dignity and trust they deserved”.
Over 12 years, the brand has attracted 681 stores up and down the country, and in addition to turning over just over €500 million, it now aims to have a store in every part of Portugal, especially in the Alentejo where it does not yet have a significant presence.
The franchise stores did particularly well during the Covid-19 pandemic which forced large swathes of the population to buy locally rather than go to large hypermarkets, and that brought in customer loyalty.
“Our main strength is that unlike the large supermarkets we operate in geographical areas where there are no hyper and supermarkets nearby,” said Carla Esteves, CEO of AéF to Negócios.
AéF also distributed a fortnightly leaflet to all the shops with its members’ products and those of its own brand Unimark (UP), which in 2023 turned over €18 million, and hopes to increase that by €4 million at the next annual accounts report.
At the annual 2023 convention, where 90 suppliers showcased their new products to 1,500 clients in the network, in two days they made €11.5 million in direct orders — an increase of €6.8 million on 2022.