Henderson Group is ramping up its food for now and food for later offer as the business looks to evolve its fresh proposition.

The company, which supplies and operates over 500 Spar, Eurospar, and Vivo stores in Northern Ireland, said it wanted to amplify its food to go options for workers and commuters, while offering more meal solutions for families.

At its 6,000 sq ft company-owned Spar store in Mallusk, visited by The Grocer this week, retail director Mark McCammond said the store had become a “food to go emporium that melded with a convenience store”.

“This is where we trial all new food to go concepts,” he said. “It’s a test kitchen, and it gives us an opportunity to stay on top of food trends.”

Last month, Henderson debuted a Pizza Bar concept at the store, offering a slice of pizza from £3.25, with variants including Margherita, Pepperoni, and Sundried Tomato, Feta & Basil Pesto. It also offers a meal deal with a pizza slice, fries and soft drink for £5.50.

The business said it was keen to roll the concept across more stores once the trial ended, including independents. 

In December, Spar Mallusk also added a breakfast burrito option to its Burrito Bar, which initially launched as part of the store opening in October 2022.

The breakfast addition meant shoppers could now enjoy a burrito or bowl made up of fillings such as hash browns, omelette, beans, chorizo, cheese, spicy mayo and sriracha, the business said.

McCammond added: “Breakfast is our biggest mission of the day, so we wanted to excite our consumers and get their taste buds going.”

Burrito Bar sits under Henderson’s food-to-go brand dubbed Delish, which also offers a Southern Fried Chicken Bar at the Spar Mallusk store. Overall, food to go makes up 30% of the store’s turnover.

The range complements Henderson’s coffee-to-go brand Barista Bar, which operates three machines at Spar Mallusk, including one dedicated to oat milk coffees only. It was also the first store to feature a Barista Bar drive-through.

McCammond added that the brand was the biggest coffee-to-go provider in Northern Ireland, selling 12 million cups per annum.

Meanwhile, Hendersons launched its first production kitchen dedicated to creating meal solutions at a company-owned Eurospar in Carrickfergus last month.

There are two chefs on site producing 94 take-home meals with up to two days’ life. These include roast beef dinner, steak pie with peas and mash, and spaghetti bolognese.

Side dishes are also available, including garlic cubed potatoes, stuffing, and champ – a traditional Irish dish made up of creamy mashed potato and spring onions.

The store was extended by 1,500 sq ft to make room for the on-site kitchen. Hendersons said the greater focus on food for later was tailored to the local community, catering for “mums, families, and pensioners”. Within its first month of launching, the range has doubled its sales budget.

“Our vision is to be famous for fresh foods,” said McCammond. “And this was next step in evolving our fresh food offer.”

The latest fresh food strategy comes as Henderson revealed to The Grocer that its like-for-like retail sales have increased by 9.7% to £1.3bn.