• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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From vegetable sales to retail empire: Foodco’s journey to building 20 outlets


The history of Foodco, one of the largest retail outlets in Nigeria today is not without humble beginnings that has remained an inspiration to many in the retail space today.

The retail empire with stated off in 1982, commenced with the sales of vegetables in a small outlet at Bodija Market, an open-air market located in Ibadan North, Oyo State, just to meet a market need at the time.

Sola Sun-Basorun, the founder of Foodco has continued to show resilience. Despite going through difficult times which had seen Foodco shut down operations at some point and closed several branches during this journey, Sun-Basorun continued to push and learnt in the process how to build a sustainable retail outlet.

Read also: FoodCo consolidates retail business in S/West, expands in Ibadan

Today, Foodco remains one of the biggest indegenous retail outlets in Nigeria that has continued to grow over the years and has expanded with 20 outlets spread across Abeokuta, Lagos and Ibadan.

In an interview with Funmi Aiyepeku, Head of Innovation and Growth and Business Transformation, FoodCo Nigeria Limited, she explains the growth and expansion process of Foodco under the leadership of Sola Sun-Basorun amid challenges.

Humble beginnings

We started from humble beginnings in Bodija Market, Ibadan where Sola Sun-Basorun, our current chairman started selling fresh vegetables and the reason behind her desire to set up the shop was because she felt the open market did not provide for certain class of customers at Ibadan at the time with quality assured products in a clean serene environment. This was why she decided to set up Foodco then. We as a business has been through ups and down. The business has been through difficult times where the chairman at some point had to focus on her family and so she had to shut down the business at some point. She came back to the business again. It ran for another few years and some economic issues arose again. There was a time we had grown to about five stores and we went down to one. Foodco has been through a lot and that is why we are grateful to be here today and we are very thankful to our customers who continue to keep us in business. The history and story of Foodco is not one without its challenges. For those that are coming behind is, there is a popular adage that says ‘The sky is big enough for birds to fly’. It takes a lot of guts to come into this business and thrive in it.

Read also: How modern retail can contribute to national economic recovery, by FoodCo CEO

Divisions of Foodco

There are four key divisions of our business. We have our super market, restaurants, private label and entertainment outfit. In the super market, we sell an array of products. We ensure we provide a friendly and fun environment. This is priority for us. This is one thing that distinguishes Foodco.

We also have our restaurant which is run with the supermarket because we believe it is fun when you have somewhere you shop and you find somewhere to rest your legs a bit and eat. This is a fundamental part of our business as well. The restaurant division offers affordable meals, cooked every single day. We also have various kinds drinks.

Under our private label, we have our Sunfresh bread and our Sunfresh ice cream. Everyone loves the bread. Most of the people who shop at the supermarket, buy the bread. The bread has done amazingly well across all our locations. We also have variety of flavours in the Sunfresh ice cream that we sell across all our locations.

For our entertainment outfit, this is targeted at the young mobile market. They hang out here and play games of different types. Foodco provides this in select locations.

In Foodco, our customers have access to a wide range of products to meet their needs under one roof. Whether it is groceries, toiletries, health and beauty apparel; you get all these in one place. We also offer this in an exceptional shopping environment. We are fun, loving and friendly and would always find our cashiers and our staff smiling and willing to help any customer that require our help and even if you don’t, we would gladly show you around our super market.

We also ensure our customers find products available at the supermarket and most importantly, at attractive prices.

Outlets’ expansion

We have three supermarkets in Abeokuta, two in Lagos and 15 in Ibadan. We are very proud of our growth over the years. We have had humble beginnings from 1982 when our chairman started the business. The business has seen ups and downs like any other business but today we are proud and grateful to God that we are standing. We recently launched our 20th outlet store in Adebayi, Ibadan, Oyo State in the same month we celebrated our 42nd anniversary.

We want to thank everyone that has contributed to the growth of Foodco today. Foodco will not be where it is today without our customers. We are deeply grateful for their patronage, consistent support and understanding. The fact that we are able to open our 20th outlets, is just evidence of the support that we enjoy. The community welcomes us. Our chairman continuous to drive the business from the leadership to chairing the board. We thank the board of directors and the entire Foodco leadership.

Read also: Foodco to boost modern retail sector with leadership programme

Ibadan is our flagship state. We started it here and we are proud to open up opportunities here. We have the population here. It is a large market that is still untapped. We are proud to continue to find opportunities to grow here in Ibadan. We have stories in Lagos State and Ogun state and in few months, you will see some of our stories in those locations. For Ibadan, we will continue to find more opportunities to reach out to customers

Dealing with inflation

Prices have gone up in the last few years but consumers have not stopped taking in commodities. One of the key things that we do is to deploy technology across all our locations where we take customer feedback in terms of what products are they looking for. Maybe they used to take imported cereals and now they have downsized to local cereals. So, we have a mechanism in place that take their feedback, we analyse those feedbacks on a weekly basis. This forms the basis for the kind of products that we stock across all our locations. We get their feedback and we use it. This has kept us in business and has also endeared us to customers for the past few years that the economy has been going though downturn.

Next phase

We are still reaching higher. We will continue to strive for higher numbers. We will continue to strive to bring our business to markets and communities where we find our customers. For us, it is still reaching higher.