A taste for the exotic Mauritius' SuperU has learnt the knack of catering for both the rich holidaymakers and ethnically diverse locals. Clive Beddall reports If there were a global award for the most exotic location for a supermarket, a top contender would surely be the platinum resort of Grand Bay on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. For it's there, a mile from the white beaches where Europe's millionaires worship the sun, and amid sugar plantations which have traditionally sweetened export revenue for the tropical island, that the French SuperU fascia delivers a European-style grocery service. But what makes the store different is that it's also where fmcg can mean anything from vintage French champagne to locally produced sugar punch at £1 per bottle. For this is hardly your average resort store catering for once-a-year holidaymakers. The hi-tech 3,000 sq m unit was opened last June by the local Tsin family in a franchise deal with France's expanding SystèmeU association of independents. The island's population ranges from Franco-Mauritians to Indians, Creoles, Chinese and Tamils, so their tastes are vividly reflected on the SuperU shelves. It enjoys a unique customer base ranging from the multicultural indigenous population with specific, local tastes to seriously rich holidaymakers with fat wallets. Store director Jean Marie Chelin, a former Coca-Cola executive, says the "average local" spends about 2,500 rupees (£62) per month on basics ranging from pulses to noodles and rice. Most are vegetarian. But, in addition, there's a further customer group, the more middle class sector of the island, whose monthly spend is around 6,000 rupees (£150). But, significantly, this is followed by a third sector ­ the community of well heeled ex-pats, plus a contingent of diamond encrusted North European holidaymakers who have been known to fill their trolleys with up to 30,000 rupees (£750) worth of groceries every month. As Chelin puts it: "We were a British colony. So we still drink tea when we eat our curry." Europe's food and drink manufacturing base is represented by a strong French presence on the shelves, but Chelin regrets there are not more British goods available. "It could be a currency issue, but in 1965 Mauritius imported up to 95% of its needs from the UK. Now, that figure is nearer 20%. And that's a pity, judging by the innovative ranges I have seen in UK stores during my visits to Britain" Encouragingly for would-be British shippers, own label is playing a bigger part in the store's inventory. Some 15% is under the SuperU name, ranging from liquor to lentils. Currently, there are around 3,000 "pure grocery stores" in Mauritius, although if you count the various Chinese supermarkets and assorted CTN type outlets, the figure serving the population of 1.2 million is nearer 7,000. Continente arrived with its French style hypermarket formula in the capital, Port Louis, six years ago. And that, according to Chelin, shook up the market with a 20th century style "shopping revolution". But according to the business grapevine on the island, the scene will be given a boost by the arrival of more operators from overseas. South African multiples are likely to be among the major invaders. And there has been speculation that, one day, one of Britain's big five will be tempted by the Indian Ocean's profit potential. But Chelin is confident SuperU will more than hold its own. {{SPOTLIGHT }}