With many consumers feeling the pinch from higher energy bills, it’s little wonder that they’re seeking out strong value-for-money, sustainable and safe alternatives that will keep them toasty warm throughout chilly days and nights
24 October 2023
Figures released in December 2022 by the Central Statistics Office showed that wholesale electricity prices increased by over 10% year-on-year.
Not only that, but according to Darragh Cassidy, writing for bonkers.ie, Irish households pay some of the highest prices for electricity in all of Europe. In fact, Irish electricity prices are the third most expensive in the EU, according to data from Eurostat. And we’re more expensive than non-EU countries such as Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and Iceland too.
Indeed, according to his report on bonkers.ie, when you look at the net price of electricity, before governments have added on any taxes and charges, electricity prices here are a staggering 60% above the EU average and more expensive than anywhere else.
A more recent report for July 2023 called the Household Energy Price Index, which was commissioned by the Austrian and Hungarian energy regulators, makes for even worse reading. It shows prices paid by consumers here are the most expensive in all of Europe at over 70% above average (€0.47 per kWh compared to an EU average of just €0.26), bonkers.ie adds.
Dr Paul Deane, senior research fellow, Energy Policy & Modelling Group, MaREI Centre/ERI also published an analysis on energy prices last year, after a year of war in Ukraine had seen our energy bills go up exponentially. “Although we don’t get gas directly from Russia, the impact of the war and the ongoing energy crisis has been felt in our pockets because of the global energy market. An unseasonably mild winter and a rush to fill gas stores means we didn’t see the shortages we feared,” Dr Deane wrote.
He also pointed out that by December 2022, consumer electricity prices were 62.7% higher year-on-year, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Further demonstrating how consumers are increasingly seeking out alternative energy sources to try and cut down their energy bills, in September 2022, the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) reported a 40% increase on sales compared to the same period the previous year. The UK trade association believes that the trend clearly indicates that consumers are taking action to help cushion themselves against spiralling home heating bills.
Data collated from all SIA manufacturing members, which accounts for approximately 75% of total UK stove sales, shows that sales for the second quarter of 2022 (April to June) hit over 35,000 units, compared to just over 25,000 for the same quarter of 2021.*
This increase, in what is typically a quieter sales period for the market, shows that consumers are recognising the benefits of using modern, ecodesign compliant wood burning stoves to provide home heating.
“With the cost for heating our homes accounting for the biggest chunk of home energy bills [last] winter, it is little wonder consumers are looking for alternatives to supplement their gas or electric heating. Couple that with growing awareness of how stretched the grid is and the increased possibility of more power cuts this winter, the option to use a highly efficient, low carbon and low emission wood burning stove to heat your main living space makes good (common) sense,” said chair of the SIA, Andy Hill.
*(Source: Wood log and multi-fuel stoves. Figures do not include boiler stoves or pellet stoves)
The Zip Firelighter range is set for a fresh winter season launch, featuring vibrant new packaging and sizes while maintaining its exceptional performance. This launch holds significant importance for engaging with all Irish market customers and ensuring the product reaches consumers promptly, explains Frank Cahalan, trading controller Ireland, Standard Brands (Zip).
Zip Firelighters are already available through all channels and stores in Ireland, but it’s essential to rapidly expand distribution of the new Zip range ahead of the upcoming winter season’s high demand. This involves partnering with all retailers, streamlining logistics, and targeted marketing to ensure convenient access for customers. The goal is to reinforce Zip Firelighters as the number one preferred choice for effective fire-starting throughout Ireland.
The Zip winter fuels range, comprising of Zip Kiln Dried Firewood, Zip Irish Kiln Dried Kindling, Zip Smokeless Coal, and the new addition to the 2024 range, the Zip 100% Natural Heat Logs. Zip’s winter fuels range has seen a substantial growth in recent years. The market has experienced a notable surge in the utilization of timber as an eco-friendly fuel source. The Zip Smokeless Coal 10kg bag has become a popular choice for customers to include in their weekly shopping. As peat exits the market in 2024, the new Zip 100% Natural Heat Log will be the perfect alternative for consumers. Zip winter fuels will continue to offer sustainable alternatives to the brand’s valued customers.
Q&A with…Frank Cahalan, trading controller Ireland, Standard Brands (Zip)
Q: What will the key elements and core messaging of your marketing campaign entail for 2024? How significantly will you invest in this?
A: We kick off our winter advertising with the continuation of our #startofagoodtime campaign. Zip is always at the “start” of a good time, whether it’s lighting a fire to warm the house before a dinner party or getting the firepit going with loved ones in the garden, Zip delivers every time. We will continue with the #startofagoodtime radio campaign from Q4 to ensure the messaging resonates with our consumers. The diverse audience on radio and the increased frequency will reinforce the #startofagoodtime campaign and keep our brand top of mind.
The radio will be supported on our Zip socials where we’ll run competitions for a #startofagoodtime indoor bundle and launch a lifestyle ad campaign centred around Zip always being at the start of a good time. Additionally, we’ll provide weekly suggestions for starting a good time with Zip, such as cozy fireside moments or fun firepit gatherings with friends. Plus, we will be capitalising on key #startofagoodtime opportunities, including national days like National Popcorn Day, Valentine’s Day and National Irish Coffee Day.
This two-pronged approach will target consumers both wherever they are listening to the radio and whilst online in order to maximise the efficiency of the campaign and underpin our core message of ‘Give Your Fire Some Zip’.
During the summer we will continue investing in radio advertising to maintain the #startofagoodtime momentum with summer specific ads as well as bringing #startofagoodtime to life on social media with a summer focus. Watch this space for more information coming soon.
Q: With consumers experiencing significant energy cost increases since 2022, to what extent can Zip’s product range help people to reduce their bills as the cost-of-living crisis persists?
A: As energy prices remain high across Ireland consumers are looking towards firelighters and fuel to heat their homes. We saw an uplift of 8.2% in firelighter sales during winter 2022 which is expected to continue rising this year*.
This is because real fires remain the cheapest method to heat your home. The Stove Industry Alliance published that it is 29% cheaper per kWh to burn wood compared to natural gas. This cost saving rises to 43% when compared to oil, 50% when compared with petroleum gas and 77% when compared with electricity.
The tightening of belts and the increase in indoor fires will mean more people turn to Zip products, where value for money and not wasting money on poor quality products plays a part. Zip firelighters have been around since 1936 which means we have over seven decades of experience in making firelighting reliable, quick, and easy.
*(Source: Nielsen 23 weeks to December)
Q: How has Zip worked to improve the company’s overall sustainability credentials, and more specifically, what has the factory done to improve its impact on the environment?
A: Standard Brands has taken some major steps towards reducing its impact on the environment. Our factory based in Castlebellingham, Co. Louth, has moved to 100% renewable energy. Pre-March 2022 we were only at 10% renewable energy. We have installed energy efficient equipment to further help reduce energy use. We almost doubled our five-year target saving 9.5 million litres of water, saving 50% of our total manufacturing usage with plans to build on this further.
With a renewed focus on reducing packaging and prioritising sustainable materials for NPD, the changes made to Zip’s packaging across the globe in 2023 have seen a card reduction equivalent to saving circa 1,430 trees. Our new product launches now focus on materials that are both sustainable and renewable, such as sugarcane bagasse.
The sustainability plan is just the start for Standard Brands as we continue our investment into securing our future, not just with our products but by educating our people.
33% of solid fuel sales are illegal: SFMI
Solid Fuel Merchants Ireland (SFMI), the country’s largest representative body for businesses and retailers engaged in the sale and distribution of solid fuels, has unveiled new research, compiled by Morley Economic Consulting, titled ‘Ireland’s Solid Fuel Merchants – An Economic and Community Impact Analysis’. Among the standout facts contained in the research is that up to one third (33%) of all fuel sold in Ireland is illegal, smoky fuel, emanating from outside the country.
The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the sector and delves into the multifaceted contributions of the solid fuel industry to Ireland’s economy, communities, and environmental stewardship. The research highlights the positive community impact made by solid fuel merchants across the country, who give back to the very communities that sustain them. Crucially, the report also underscores SFMI’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and innovation amidst evolving market and consumer behaviour trends.
The findings also shed light on the concerns of SFMI members regarding the future viability of the sector, particularly in light of challenges posed by the illegal sale of smoky fuels from outside the jurisdiction. Within this dynamic regulatory landscape, SFMI advocates for a level playing field that ensures fair and ethical trading practices so that legitimate retailers, and the people who rely on them for the energy requirements are protected.
Among the report’s key findings are;
- A low-level enforcement of regulations pertaining to illegal fuel sales by local authorities – with just one prosecution to date
- Six in every 10 merchants view the current state of their business, and/or sector, negatively.
- The need for further funds for local authorities to police the sale of illegal fuel
- Until energy security is achieved, households must have a secondary heat source – which underscores the importance of solid fuel merchants in the community
- The need for the North South Ministerial Council to push for a smoky coal ban across the island of Ireland in order to prevent the illegal sale of solid fuel
- The need for a €25m just transition fund for solid fuel merchants
“SFMI members are united in their serious concern at the low level of enforcement of regulations by local authorities in preventing the sale of illegal fuel,” said chairperson of Solid Fuel Merchants, Colin Ahern.
“With two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland and a lack of alignment on regulations pertaining to smoky fuel and carbon taxes this has led to a prolific amount of illegal fuel being sold without detection. The fact a legal lacuna indirectly facilitates the sale of illegal fuel from Northern Ireland is far from satisfactory. Politicians and policymakers need to make this priority if they are serious about making an impact on the environment while safeguarding legitimate fuel merchants.”
If left unchecked, the level of illegal trade is likely to continue to trend upwards and this could result in annual losses to the exchequer of upwards of €18 million by 2025, not to mind the serious environmental damage that is being done with product that is below par quality, and more importantly, safety standards.
The absence of a fully regulated EPA licensing requirement is creating fertile ground for illegal traders. To contain this problem, we are once again calling for the introduction of an EPA licensing requirement, to ensure the establishment of a national database of approved, legitimate solid fuel retailers.” Ahern concluded.
Cylinder safety at the core of Calor
As temperatures drop and the long evenings begin, many homeowners are turning on their home heating systems for longer periods of time. Homeowners need to be well prepared for the winter months, they want energy that is reliable, affordable and safe to use. Calor retailers can be confident in recommending Calor cylinders to their customers, because of the commitment Calor makes to safety in its cylinders.
At Calor, safety and trust are paramount for the brand’s retailers and their customers. Over the past 80 years, Calor has been meeting the energy needs of homes and business across the island of Ireland. Throughout this time, Calor has earned a reputation for delivering the highest standards of cylinder safety in the products it offers, and those available through its extensive retailer network.
All Calor cylinders are filled by Calor, so it can be sure of every one. Every Calor cylinder goes through a substantial and detailed seven-point mandatory safety check before it is delivered to a Calor retailer.
It is imperative for customer safety that when purchasing a cylinder, you always check that there is a seal and that the seal is not broken.
For more information on becoming a Calor retailer or to see Calor’s range of mobile heaters, check out its website at www.calorgas.ie.
Top five benefits of partnering with Flogas
First, from setup to ongoing operational assistance, Flogas retailers benefit from a dedicated cylinder representative in their area and an established network of distributors for reliable, consistent local service. With access to technical support, customer service along with sales and marketing assistance, signing up to Flogas makes sense for your business.
Second, as a trusted name in the energy industry, Flogas is renowned for its high-quality products and reliable services. Continuous investment in marketing and promotional activities actively benefit retailers. It’s a collective effort that will boost your visibility and attract more customers.
Third, Flogas operates a rigorous retesting programme on all empty cylinders prior to refilling and cylinders are fitted with secure, tamper-proof seals (Securiseal). Safety is Flogas’ priority and with a 24-hour emergency service, you can be sure that assistance is there should you need it.
Fourth, Flogas is the only company in Ireland offering the Gaslight cylinder. Half the weight of traditional steel cylinders, they are easier to carry and particularly useful for boats, caravans and outdoor entertaining.
Last but by no means least, as a Flogas retailer, you provide an essential energy source to your local community, fostering relationships and establishing your business as a cornerstone of support.
Becoming a Flogas retailer is not just a business venture; it’s a strategic partnership that gives you the resources, expertise and credibility needed for long-term success. As a fully owned Irish company, working with Flogas means that you are supporting local, Irish jobs.