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Years of history
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Humble Beginnings

1869-1899

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.

SA/BL/IMA/8/4 - Photograph of sausage production in factory
Sainsbury's first own brand sausages were made behind the scenes of the Croydon branch. Sainsbury's first own brand sausages were made behind the scenes of the Croydon branch.
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Lloyd Maunder of Tiverton, Sainsbury's longest serving supplier, began supplying butter, eggs, rabbits, pig meat and paultry. Lloyd Maunder of Tiverton, Sainsbury's longest serving supplier, began supplying butter, eggs, rabbits, pig meat and paultry.

Fresh Challenges

1900-1939

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.

SA/PKC/PRO/1/11/4/1 - Coffee packaging and product images
Sainsbury’s Red Label tea introduced into Sainsbury's product range becoming an instant favourite Sainsbury’s Red Label tea introduced into Sainsbury's product range becoming an instant favourite
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Grocery departments introduced into larger shops and new branches as standard Grocery departments introduced into larger shops and new branches as standard
SA/MARK/ADV/1/1/1/1/1/19/9 - "Scotch Beef from the Balmoral Farms of H.M. The King" advertisement
‘Scotch’ beef from the Aberdeen area; regarded as the best available was introduced to the Sainsbury’s range. It was originally supplied by a butcher named Blacklaw from Stonehaven near Aberdeen ‘Scotch’ beef from the Aberdeen area; regarded as the best available was introduced to the Sainsbury’s range. It was originally supplied by a butcher named Blacklaw from Stonehaven near Aberdeen
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The pioneering pilot Amy Johnson became the first public figure to be used in Sainsbury's adverts The pioneering pilot Amy Johnson became the first public figure to be used in Sainsbury's adverts

The British Shopping Revolution

1940-1969

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.

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Sainsbury's opens the largest self-service food store in Europe at Lewisham, selling bread and fresh produce for the first time. Sainsbury's opens the largest self-service food store in Europe at Lewisham, selling bread and fresh produce for the first time.

Nationwide expansion

1970-1999

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.

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First edge-of-town store opens at Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, including a fresh fish counter, petrol station and coffee shop First edge-of-town store opens at Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, including a fresh fish counter, petrol station and coffee shop
SA/SUB/FRE/6/12 - Photograph of Goodmayes Freezer Centre interior, 1978
SA/PKC/PRO/1/6/2/5/1/9/1 - Sainsbury's Vitapint carton, 1980s-1990s
Introduction of Vitapint, a low-fat vitamin-enriched milk and Sainsbury’s first product to contain nutritional labelling Introduction of Vitapint, a low-fat vitamin-enriched milk and Sainsbury’s first product to contain nutritional labelling
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Ready meals launched Ready meals launched
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The environmentally friendlier Greencare range was introduced The environmentally friendlier Greencare range was introduced
SA/PKC/PAC/6/5/2/2 - Promotional photograph of "Making Life Taste Better" orange bag for life with sliced oranges
The first ever carrier bags made from recycled plastic were introduced The first ever carrier bags made from recycled plastic were introduced
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Sainsbury's ‘The Magazine’ launched in store Sainsbury's ‘The Magazine’ launched in store
SA/BRA/5/5/1/2 - Wine Direct brochure
Sainsbury’s offers wine over the internet through ‘Wine Direct’ Sainsbury’s offers wine over the internet through ‘Wine Direct’
Introduction of Fair Trade products Introduction of Fair Trade products
SA/SUB/BNK/2/1 - Sainsbury's Bank Visa Card brochure "A fresh new idea for Sainsbury's customers…"
SA/BRA/5/5/2/1 - Guide to Orderline (booklet)
Sainsbury’s launches ‘Orderline’, a telephone, fax and internet home delivery shopping service Sainsbury’s launches ‘Orderline’, a telephone, fax and internet home delivery shopping service
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Re-building the Brand

2000-2018

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.

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Taste the Difference range launches Taste the Difference range launches
Introduction of ‘Freefrom’, the first supermarket range for allergy sufferers Introduction of ‘Freefrom’, the first supermarket range for allergy sufferers
Launched the 'Try Something New' range Launched the 'Try Something New' range
'Live Well for Less' campaign launched 'Live Well for Less' campaign launched
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Completed purchase of Home Retail Group. Completed purchase of Home Retail Group.
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Introduced milk-free coconut-based alternatives to cheese. Introduced milk-free coconut-based alternatives to cheese.
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Introduced new gluten free bread range Introduced new gluten free bread range