The wholesale and retail of food in South African generated well over R1.2tn in revenue in 2022. If the growing but hard to quantify informal food trade is included, food trade revenues could be in excess of R1.4tn.
The food retail industry is concentrated and dominated by four national, vertically integrated companies that control more than half the market. Facing reducing returns in a mature, saturated South African urban market and African investments that have produced mixed results, retailers have also dealt with unforeseen events that put them under revenue, profit and balance sheet pressure.
National retailers have responded to these pressures with investment strategies aimed at lowering prices and differentiating stores. They continue to look for new markets in small towns, rural areas, and townships.
Food wholesalers, independent retailers, and informal traders, under pressure from this retail expansion into markets that were previously their preserve, have adopted new strategies to attract consumers. The biggest risk to the success of these responses is the ability of consumers to sustain their shopping spend in an environment of low growth, high inflation and high unemployment.
South African retailers have largely retained their presence in Southern Africa while withdrawing from some West and East African markets. Retailers continue to experience risks including currency devaluations and high inflation. Many consumers in African countries with strong informal channels have resisted migrating to supermarkets, limiting their visits to occasional bulk-buying while continuing to rely on informal traders for their daily purchases.
This report on the wholesale and retail of food in South Africa includes comprehensive information on the state and size of the sector, the major players, developments, food and other input prices, economic factors, the presence of South African companies on the continent and the development of online delivery. There are profiles of 20 companies including the major retailers Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Spar and Massmart and wholesalers, cash and carry and buying groups including Africa Cash and Carry, Devland Cash and Carry, ICC Buying Group and Unitrade.