It was 1869 when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened the first Sainsbury's store on London's Drury Lane. The business didn't take long to flourish, proving popular with locals due to the high quality yet affordable goods on offer.
By 1881, three more stores were opened to help cater for the growing demand. In 1882, they opened their first shop outside of London, in Croydon and it quickly became Sainsbury's flagship store.
Lloyd Maunder of Tiverton, Sainsbury's longest serving supplier, began supplying butter, eggs, rabbits, pig meat and paultry.1898
The long relationship between Lloyd Maunder Ltd and Sainsbury's began by chance in 1898. A local miller at Witheridge in North Devon had occasionally supplied Sainsbury's with poultry, but was unable to supply the large quantities requested. Seeing the potential for business links in London, Lloyd met with Arthur Sainsbury and came to an agreement that he would supply Sainsbury's regularly with poultry, butter, eggs, rabbits and pig meat. Lloyd Maunder referred to Sainsbury's as 'A1', so that rivals would not discover the secret of his success. His products were so popular with Sainsbury's customers that he soon began to buy additional supplies from other farmers. These would be collected by pony and trap and sent by rail to London. This supported the depressed West Country farming industry, by providing a guaranteed market for farmers who produced only small quantities of eggs, butter and poultry. In 1912, in response to growing demand, Lloyd Maunder set up an abattoir at Willan, near Tiverton. The goods, which later included beef and mutton, were referred to by Sainsbury's as 'produce from our own farms', even though the company never had a direct link in Lloyd Maunder's business. However, the good relationship between Lloyd Maunder and Sainsbury's extended beyond business. John Benjamin Sainsbury told Lloyd Maunder 'if you can't make friends as well as money in business, it's not worth going on'. Lloyd Maunder Ltd continues to supply Sainsbury's and In 2004, the company developed a new breed of chicken, the Devonshire White, which became the first Sainsbury's product to receive RSPCA 'Freedom Food' certification."
As the First World War broke out in 1914, Sainsbury’s began actively recruiting for female colleagues to solve the colleague shortage. By 1918, Sainsbury’s employed 39 female branch managers. War raged on so the government was forced to introduce rationing on sugar in 1917. By 1918 this had expanded to butter, margarine and various other products.
It wasn’t until 1921 that food became free of restrictions and Sainsbury’s was once again able to drive the cost of goods down for customers throughout the 1920s and 1930s before war (and rationing) struck once again in 1939.
Sainsbury’s Red Label tea introduced into Sainsbury's product range becoming an instant favourite1903
In 1903, John James Sainsbury acquired a number of shops from another chain retailer, Tom Deacock. One of these, at 12 Kingsland High Street, sold teas, sugar, coffee, cocoa, canned fish and fruit. John James decided to add these grocery products to Sainsbury's growing product range. For Sainsbury's range of 'pure teas', John James Sainsbury enlisted the help of George Payne & Co, a tea merchant based near Tower Bridge. The founder also sent his fifth son Alfred to train with George Payne before joining Sainsbury's as grocery buyer in 1906. Together, John James and George Payne selected different blends, identified by the coloured seals on the packets. Red Label, Blue Label and Green Label were launched at opening of the Ealing branch in 1903. In 1904 the range was extended by the introduction of two further blends: Yellow Label and Brown Label. Red Label was the most expensive blend at 1s 6d per lb and is the oldest Sainsbury brand product still sold today. It is still supplied by the same company (now known as Finlays) and was licensed to carry the Fairtrade mark in October 2007.
Grocery departments introduced into larger shops and new branches as standard1920
Groceries soon became an integral part of Sainsbury's business and from 1920 expanded grocery departments were opened in many branches. Many grocery lines were Sainsbury brand goods. By 1938, the 'Selsa' sub-brand was used for over 80 products, including spices, fruit squashes, tinned soup and blancmange powder.
The British Shopping Revolution1940-1969
In 1950, Sainsbury’s opened their first self-service on London Road, Croydon. This meant the transition from stores whereby colleagues fetched all the items a customer needed, to the modern method we see in stores today of customers browsing aisles and selecting their own products.
As self-service stores became more common, Sainsbury’s was able to produce and sell more of its own-brand goods. In 1969, Sainsbury’s own-brand products accounted for over 50 per cent of its turnover.
Sainsbury's opens the largest self-service food store in Europe at Lewisham, selling bread and fresh produce for the first time.1955
The store had a sales area of 7,500 square feet and a glass-walled ventilated room for cutting and wrapping butter and other goods.
In was in this period that Sainsbury's established itself as a truly national retailer, first opening stores in Yorkshire and the north and then expanding to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Sainsbury’s was floated on the stock exchange in 1973 and continued to innovate into the 80s and 90s, introducing carrier bags made from recycled material and was one of the first to sell Fairtrade products.
Re-building the Brand2000-2018
Sainsbury’s saw in the millennium with a total of 432 stores across the UK and more ways to make the shopping experience easier.
In 2004 Sainsbury’s began working with the Woodland Trust and has planted nearly two million trees since. A year later, Sainsbury’s were the first retailer to introduce traffic light nutritional labelling on products to give customers a better indication of the nutritional value.
By 2010, Sainsbury’s had opened the first of six food colleges – these have now trained 18,000 colleagues in traditional skills.
Introduced milk-free coconut-based alternatives to cheese.2016
This new range is part of Deliciously Freefrom range and aimed at vegans and those with milk allergies or intolerances. It incorporates a new way of communicating allergens and introduces market-leading front of pack allergen communication, designed to provide key allergen information at a glance, as well as a greater choice of better-tasting products.