The Iceland Story
Though sometimes confused with a small country of Viking origins on the fringes of the Arctic Circle, the real Iceland is a unique British food retailer with over 870 stores throughout the UK, a further 40 owned or franchised stores across Europe and a global export business. This is its story.
1970 Iceland sprang to life when Malcolm Walker and another bored, young retailer decided to open a shop in an attempt to make their fortunes. They raised initial capital of just £60 to pay one month’s rent and opened the very first Iceland in Oswestry, Shropshire in November 1970. In those days, before domestic fridges and freezers became commonplace, Iceland specialised in selling loose frozen food.
1975 The business really took off when Woolworths fired the founders from their day jobs in February 1971, and they were able to devote themselves to developing the Iceland concept full-time. By 1975 there were 15 Iceland stores in North Wales and the North West, supported by a cold store in Rhyl.
1979 Iceland progressively evolved away from loose frozen food, opening its first purpose-built freezer centre at Stretford, Manchester, in 1978, and developing its own branded products. In 1979 the company opened a brand new cold store and head office at Deeside, Flintshire, where it has been based ever since, and by 1980 it had grown to 37 stores.
1984 Expanding through new store openings and the acquisition of smaller chains, Iceland had 81 stores by 1984, when it became a public company through one of the most successful flotations ever seen on the London Stock Exchange. The initial public offering of just £8 million worth of shares brought in applications with cheques totalling over £900 million, making it an amazing 113 times oversubscribed.
1986 Iceland became the first UK supermarket to remove artificial colourings, flavourings and non-essential preservatives from its own brand products, two decades before some of its major rivals. In this year it also became the first UK supermarket to ban monosodium glutamate (MSG) from its own brand products.
1989 Iceland had been steadily acquiring smaller freezer centre chains but late in 1988 it went for The Big One, making a fiercely contested bid for its much larger, southern-based rival Bejam. Victory was secured by the narrowest of margins and Iceland took control in January 1989, creating a truly national chain with 465 stores.
1990 Iceland banned mechanically recovery meat (MRM) from all Iceland brand products.
Leading The World
1996 By 1995 Iceland had 752 stores and had clocked up an impressive 25 years of consistent profit growth. It now began to feel the effects of more intense competition as superstores were permitted to open on Sundays for the first time, and progressively extended their weekday opening hours. Under the leadership of founder Malcolm Walker, the company staged a successful fight-back based on a massive programme of innovation. This included the introduction of a still unique free, national home delivery service, and the development of a wide range of new products.
1998 Among Iceland’s many world firsts in the late 1990s were the development of a complete own label range free of GM ingredients, under the ‘Food You Can Trust’ banner, and the launch of a nationwide home shopping service. The company also developed a partnership with the Cancer Research Campaign to promote the health benefits of eating more frozen vegetables.
2000 In 2000 Iceland made a recommended offer for Booker, the UK’s largest cash-and-carry operator, with the aim of exploiting buying and other synergies between the two businesses. Booker’s top manager Stuart Rose was appointed chief executive of the enlarged group, while Iceland’s Malcolm Walker was scheduled to become non-executive chairman. But shortly after the deal was completed, Stuart Rose left to head the Arcadia fashion chain, where he made a fortune before moving on to Marks & Spencer.
The Dark Ages
2001 Into this management vacuum stepped new chief executive Bill Grimsey, who had built his City reputation at the Wickes DIY chain following the departure of its previous management team as the result of a financial scandal. Within weeks of joining Iceland, he and his new finance director Bill Hoskins – also from Wickes – claimed to have identified massive problems. These plunged the business into a £120 million loss after an amazing £145 million of exceptional items – an extraordinary reversal of fortunes for a group operating in inherently stable industries, which had recorded a profit of £32 million in the first six months of that financial year. Malcolm Walker and many of the senior managers who had built the Iceland business were forced to leave the company.
2003 Renamed The Big Food Group in February 2002, the combined Iceland-Booker business struggled under its new management, despite the launch of a grandiose recovery plan. (Click here to read the saga of ‘The one, two, three, four, five year recovery plan’.) For Iceland, the declared ambition was ‘to dominate high street food retailing through a renewed focus on core customers and frozen food’. The reality was a steady decline in customer numbers and sales, while costs – including senior management rewards – escalated. Profits never recovered to historic levels and were supported only by the release of provisions made in 2001. (Click here to see how the release of provisions found to be ‘not needed’ boosted profits in 2002 – 2004.) The company therefore faced growing difficulties as these neared exhaustion towards the end of 2004.
A New Beginning
2005 In February 2005 The Big Food Group’s shareholders accepted a recommended offer from a consortium of investors that made it a private company once more. Shareholders received only a fraction of the value the business had enjoyed on the stock market at its peak. The group was subsequently split into its main component parts and Iceland placed under the management of Malcolm Walker and other senior executives who had been ejected in 2001.
The new team returned to find a company in crisis. Sales were running at minus 10% on the previous year, having declined every year since 2001. Over the same four years overheads had escalated on a massive scale, with head office employee numbers growing from 800 to 1,400 and a further £16 million being spent on the services of external consultants. The product range had expanded chaotically and prices were well out of line with the market. Morale was at an all-time low and the company was in such a precarious financial state that suppliers could not even obtain credit insurance.
2006 Sales began to rise steadily every week during the new team’s first year back in charge, as customers returned to the stores. By the end of the financial year to March 2006 like-for-like sales were running 20% up year-on-year, making Iceland the UK’s fastest-growing food retailer. An independent customer satisfaction survey, conducted around the same time, also identified Iceland as the country’s fastest improving retailer. Instead of the massive loss anticipated at the time of the takeover in February 2005 the business achieved a satisfactory operating profit, while the cash position was transformed to give Iceland a healthy balance sheet. This permitted the launch of a major investment programme to improve neglected stores, and to turn the previous management’s unsuccessful convenience store formats back into traditional Iceland freezer centres.
The key to this success was a strategy of making the business simpler, and refocusing on its traditional strengths. Through this, Iceland rapidly became recognised once more as the UK’s natural destination store for innovative, value-for-money frozen food. The introduction of round sum pricing made it easy for customers to budget, while the unique home delivery service provided a vital helping hand to busy mums.
By Christmas 2006 like-for-like sales were growing at 15% for the second year in a row and Iceland was proud to take on sponsorship of ITV’s flagship show, ‘I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!’ Iceland’s very own celebrity mum Kerry Katona had already been crowned Queen of the Jungle in 2004 and made the perfect hostess for the sponsorship.
From Success to Success
2007 The results for the financial year to March 2007 demonstrated that Iceland had been restored to robust financial health, generating cash and recording an operating profit of almost £100 million. Continued strong sales growth throughout the year was driven by innovation across the whole range of frozen food under the Iceland brand, while costs remained under tight control.
The 2007 staff survey and mystery shopper programme highlighted the massive recovery in morale since the dark days of 2004/5, with managers now feeling valued and the whole team demonstrating a real passion to make things even better. In recognition of their achievements, Iceland took all 682 of its store managers to Disneyland, Paris for two days in October for a fun-filled and inspirational annual conference.
2008 As Iceland’s strong sales and profit growth continued into 2008, the scale of the economic challenges facing British shoppers became ever more apparent. Iceland responded by reinforcing its long-standing reputation for great value and constant innovation with a range of product launches. As well as providing truly outstanding value for money, the company continued to win recognition for the quality of its innovations, with Iceland Chinese Takeaway Duck in Plum Sauce winning a Gold Award for best new poultry product of the year from the British Frozen Food Federation, while the Indian Takeaway Tandoori Chicken Masala won the Frozen Food Savoury Award in The Grocer Own Label Excellence Awards. There were awards, too, for Iceland’s successful store managers at their annual conference in Liverpool: the Iceland Oscars, a black tie extravaganza featuring the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, opera, pyrotechnics and a live performance by Girls Aloud.
2009: From Woolworths to Florida
January: the year began with the announcement that Iceland had agreed to buy 51 stores from the receivers of Woolworths, massively accelerating the year’s planned store opening programme. In total Iceland opened more than 70 new stores throughout the UK, from Fraserburgh in the north of Scotland to Exmouth in Devon, creating some 2,500 new jobs. The company also announced plans to open a further 20-30 new stores in 2010.
March: Iceland was recognised in the annual Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For survey as one of the 20 best big companies to work for in the UK.
June: the company announced record sales and profits for its financial year to 27 March 2009. Like-for-like sales were up 16%, making a total increase of almost 45% over the four years since Malcolm Walker and his team returned to the business in 2005, and taking total sales over £2 billion for the first time. Operating profit increased by 41% to £135.7 million and net profit before tax by a massive 84% to £113.7 million.
September: From rock bottom four years ago, morale had soared to give Iceland some of the best ratings in the country for employees feeling cared for and motivated, proud to work for the company and excited about where it is going. Small wonder when, in fulfilment of a pledge made at the 2008 managers’ conference to reward another good Christmas performance, almost 800 of the company’s store, regional and area managers spent five days at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for their annual conference in September. See more on A Great Place to Work
2010: Celebrating 40 Fantastic Years
March: 2010 Iceland improved its ranking in the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey as one of the best 25 Big Companies to Work For in the UK. Iceland was the only food retailer to feature in the list and was the highest rated of all the big companies in the survey for staff satisfaction with their pay and benefits.
June: Iceland again achieved record results for its financial year to March 2010. Total sales grew by 10.5%, including a like-for-like sales improvement of 4.3%, while EBITDA increased by 11.2% to £184.2 million. A total of 74 new stores were opened during the year, on schedule and on budget, representing the fastest rate of expansion by the group since the acquisition of Bejam in 1989. Customer numbers continued to grow, aided by the build-up of the Bonus Card loyalty scheme, while independent mystery shop results confirmed further improvements in store standards and customer service. Continued strong cash flow reduced net debt to £7.6 million by the year end, when the company repaid its old debt and replaced it with an unsecured revolving credit facility which will generate annual interest savings of over £2 million for the future.
September: Iceland was delighted to receive further recognition of its success when it was named Discount Retailer of the Year at the annual industry Oscars, the 2010 Retail Industry Awards.
November: On 18 November Iceland celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening of its very first shop in Oswestry, Shropshire with a spectacular Charity Ball that raised over £750,000 for Help for Heroes, Iceland’s Charity of the Year for 2010/11. Combined with the proceeds of staff and customer fund-raising during the company’s annual charity week, this enabled Chief Executive Malcolm Walker to present Help for Heroes co-founders Bryn and Emma Parry with a cheque for £1.5 million from the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation, Iceland’s umbrella for its continuing work with good causes.
November: Iceland was named best UK frozen supermarket pizza retailer at the annual industry awards of PAPA, the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association.
2011: Scaling New Heights
February: Iceland announced that its Chief Executive Malcolm Walker (65) and his son Richard (30) would be joining the Iceland Everest Expedition in support of Iceland’s Charity of the Year for 2011/12, Alzheimer’s Research UK. This marked the start of the company’s year-long effort to raise at least £1 million for research into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The Walkers achieved their objective of reaching the North Col of Everest at 23,000ft in early May, while four members of the Expedition went on to plant the Iceland Foods flag on the summit of the mountain on 21 May.
March: Iceland announced that X Factor finalist and Queen of the Jungle Stacey Solomon, a genuine Iceland customer, was to be the new face of Iceland fronting the company’s advertising campaigns.
This month Iceland also again improved its ranking in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For league table, moving up seven places to number six overall. Iceland was second to only one other company in the country when staff were asked whether they were happy with their pay and benefits.
June: Iceland again reported record results in June, making its financial year to 25 March 2011 the sixth consecutive year of growth. Sales grew 5.9% to £2.4 billion while net profit before tax increased by 14.8% to £155.5 million. A further 20 net new stores were opened across the UK, creating 1,500 new jobs, and the company ended the year virtually free of debt.
June: key to Iceland’s continuing success has been the company’s leading role in frozen food innovation, launching more than 200 new products in just 12 months. The quality of this innovation was underlined in June when Iceland won nine awards at the British Frozen Food Awards for the second consecutive year, including both the Gold and Silver awards in the desserts and pizza categories, and two out of the three awards for new fish products. Iceland also won the Gold award for best new vegetable product, while its Double Chocolate & Raspberry Sensation Gateau won the supreme overall accolade of Retail Product of the Year.
October: Iceland was delighted to announce that it had passed its £1 million goal in fundraising for Charity of the Year Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the total had swelled to more than £1.2 million by the end of the year.
2012: Malcolm Walker buys back Iceland
February: Iceland’s year had already got off to the best possible start in February when the company achieved a spectacular triple success in the Sunday Times Best Companies Awards. Not only was Iceland rated Best Big Company to Work For in the UK, up from sixth place in 2011, but also Most Improved big company, while Chief Executive Malcolm Walker was named Best Leader of a big company in the UK. All these rankings were based on the votes of Iceland’s own people, underlining the massive improvement in staff morale achieved since Malcolm and his senior team returned to the business in 2005. Read the full press release on the Awards here.
March: brought more great news. After a prolonged period of uncertainty caused by the liquidators of two failed Icelandic banks putting their 77% shareholding in the business up for auction, Malcolm Walker concluded a successful £1.45 billion management buyout, backed by co-investors Brait S.A., Lord Kirkham and The Landmark Group. Read the full press release on the buyout here.
April: Iceland announced that Alzheimer’s Research UK would again be its Charity of the Year for 2012/13 and committed to raising a further £1 million for research as well as continuing our work to increase public awareness of this dreadful disease.
We also continued our long term support for Prostate Cancer UK, making a £100,000 donation in April that brought our total support over the last four years to more than £420,000.
May: Our fundraising for ARUK got off to a great start in May, when we donated to more than £139,000 raised in our Welsh stores through the 5p levy on single-use carrier bags.
June: Iceland remained the principal driver of innovation in the UK frozen food market, launching more than 240 new products during the year to June, when we were once again the most successful retailer in the annual British Frozen Food Awards. We picked up a total of six awards: two bronze, two silver and two gold, with our Chocolate and Orange Cheesecake being named Best New Dessert and our 12 White Bread Rolls taking the top prize in the Best New Savouries and Savoury Bread category.
June: this month we also announced our seventh consecutive set of record results. Sales rose 9.4% to £2.614 billion, including like-for-like sales growth of 6.0%, and EBITDA increased by 22.5% to £230.2 million. We added a net 18 new stores to the Group and created approximately 1,000 new jobs.
June: Iceland acquired its supplier Loxton Foods Limited (renamed Iceland Manufacturing Limited in April 2013), to help the company accelerate product innovation and secure the benefits of vertical integration.
November: on Iceland’s 42nd anniversary, founder and CEO Malcolm Walker flew out to Antarctica to join In The Footsteps of Legends: The Iceland Antarctic Expedition, a gruelling 140 mile unsupported trek across the ice cap to the Geographic South Pole to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Walking With The Wounded. Timed to commemorate the centenary of Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition and particularly the noble self-sacrifice of Captain Lawrence Oates, the team included three members of Oates’s old regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, who had all been wounded on active service in Afghanistan.
2013: Best Served Cold
February: Iceland was delighted to be ranked among the UK’s Top Ten organisations for Customer Satisfaction by the Institute of Customer Service.
On 15 February, Iceland was among the first UK retailers to report that all its own brand beef products had been tested and found to be clear of contamination by horsemeat. The company underlined its commitment to providing Food You Can Trust by reminding consumers of the lead it had taken since the 1980s in removing artificial colours, flavours, non-essential preservatives, monosodium glutamate, mechanically recovered meat, GM ingredients and manmade trans fats from its own brand products.
February: Iceland announced the presentation of a cheque for £105,906 to Prostate Cancer UK, following its record-breaking annual Charity Amateur Golf Classic day in 2012, bringing total donations to the charity over the last five years to more than £525,000.
February: The 2013 Sunday Times Best Companies survey results, revealed another strong showing by Iceland as the top performing high street retailer and second placed overall in the Best Big Company To Work For table, with number one rankings for giving employees a Fair Deal and caring for their Wellbeing.
May: Iceland announced that it had begun trials of a new online shopping service, taking the company back into a market place it had led with the introduction of the UK’s first nationwide home shopping service in 1999, but left to focus on the recovery of the core business in 2005. The service had been successfully extended to 280 stores, covering around 50% of the UK’s population, by the end of the year.
June: Iceland celebrated the official launch of the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation with a spectacular garden party at founder, Chairman & CEO Malcolm Walker’s home in Cheshire, where a cheque for £850,723 was presented to Alzheimer’s Research UK, bringing Iceland’s total support to the charity during 2012/13 to £1 million; and a further cheque for £25,000 was presented to Vision4Children.
June: Iceland’s 2012/13 Group results, showed underlying sales growth of 3.1% to £2.640 billion and a 0.6% increase in adjusted EBITDA to £226.3 million. During the year the Group also opened a net 33 new Iceland stores, creating 1,250 new jobs.
June: the British Frozen Foods Awards, once again confirmed Iceland’s leading role as the top performing retailer of frozen food and the principal driver of innovation in the market place, having launched more than 400 new products under the Iceland brand during the previous year. The company secured one Gold, two Silver and two Bronze awards across four categories: poultry, fish, meat and desserts.
September: Iceland reached the landmark of its 800th store. The company also continued its industry-leading innovation with the introduction of a large number of new products, including a premium ready meal range.
October: two independent research reports published in October identified Iceland as Britain’s easiest place to shop and underlined once again its truly exceptional value compared with all the major supermarket chains. Iceland was also named “Convenience Retailer of the Year” at the annual fresh produce industry awards, in recognition of the excellence of its produce offer.
October: Iceland featured in a three-part reality documentary series “Iceland Foods: Life In The Freezer Cabinet” on BBC2. The programmes gained excellent audiences, reaching a peak of 2.6 million for the final episode broadcast on 5 November, and received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, customers, staff and the public in general.
November: Malcolm Walker published his autobiography, Best Served Cold, with all proceeds being donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
In the same month Iceland announced that it was taking direct control of the seven franchised Iceland stores in the Republic of Ireland, with the aim of accelerating the expansion of the business there.
2014: The Best Again
February: Iceland was delighted to regain its crown as The Best Big Company To Work For at the Best Companies Awards in February, having first taken the top spot in 2012 and second place in 2013. Iceland was also named Most Improved Big Company while Malcolm Walker was runner-up in the Best Leader category.
April: Iceland concluded its three year charity partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK with the presentation of another £1m cheque, bringing the total raised for this great cause to £3.1 million. Iceland is proud not only of having raised so much to support desperately needed research into this dreadful disease, but also of the impact its fundraising efforts across the country have made in heightening public awareness of dementia.
Iceland also continued its long-standing support for Prostate Cancer UK with the presentation of a £135,000 cheque that brought the total donated over the last six years to more than £660,000.
June: Iceland announced its annual results for the financial year 2013/14, which highlighted a further uplift in sales to more than £2.7 billion and a series of major investments for future sustainable growth. These included the opening of 46 new stores in the UK, the launch and roll-out of online shopping, and a range of developments internationally. These included the acquisition of the Iceland stores in Ireland, the opening of two new stores in the Czech Republic, and a major drive into new export markets in southern Africa and the Middle East.
June: Iceland was once again the top retail performer at the 2014 British Frozen Food Awards for innovation, picking up one gold, three silver and two bronze awards. These included the two top awards in the Best New Meat-based product category for its Luxury Pork Loin Rack with an Apple Crust and Luxury Venison Garland.
July: Malcolm Walker was honoured to be named "Most People Focused CEO" at the annual HR Excellence Awards.
August: on 4 August the company marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War with a pledge to raise £1 million for its charity partner for 2014/15, The Royal British Legion.
August: during the summer Iceland completed the national roll-out of its online shopping service, well ahead of schedule, making this available to approximately 84% of the UK population. Offering free delivery on all orders over £35, the online service has helped to drive growth of Iceland’s total delivered sales business to a level regularly exceeding 200,000 deliveries per week.
August: Iceland announced that the TV presenter, songwriter and chart-topping singer Peter Andre had been chosen as the new face of Iceland, beginning an advertising partnership that achieved some of the UK’s highest rates of recall over Christmas 2014.
September: Iceland opened the first of its new concept stores called The Food Warehouse. This is more than double the size of a typical Iceland store and, as well as the full Iceland range of frozen and chilled products, offers extended ranges of luxury and speciality frozen food, and of chilled meat and fresh produce, plus a wide selection of value bulk packs of grocery products. By early 2015 The Food Warehouse was trading successfully in six locations around the UK and lessons on ranging and store operation from these stores were being applied across the whole Iceland estate.
November: for the second time in five years, Iceland was named Frozen Pizza Multiple Retailer of the Year at the PAPA Awards presented by the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association. The award recognised Iceland’s exceptional contribution to driving the frozen pizza category through innovation. This has included the launch of ranges of authentic Italian Wood Fired Ultra Thin pizzas, produced in the foothills of the Dolomites, Italian Stonebaked pizzas and stuffed crust pizzas matching anything that customers can buy from a takeaway at a fraction of the cost.
December: as Christmas approached Good Housekeeping named Iceland’s Luxury Mince Pies as the best in the UK, beating not just other supermarkets but niche retailers including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. Iceland’s £5 frozen Canadian lobster was also a huge hit with festive shoppers, while Good Housekeeping identified Iceland as the UK’s cheapest one-stop shop for Christmas dinner.
2015: The Power of Frozen
January: the year got off to fantastic start for Iceland Bingo player Anne Marie Farrar, who won an amazing £3.4 million jackpot from a 15p stake – the UK’s second biggest online bingo win of all time.
February: Which? Magazine ranked Iceland in equal third place in its annual review of the nation’s favourite supermarkets – ahead of all the “Big Four” major multiples – while customer satisfaction with Iceland’s online service was second only to Ocado.
February: Iceland introduced an exclusive new range of Slimming World ready meals, based on the slimming organisation’s famous “Food Optimising” eating plan using high quality “Free Food” ingredients and in response to demand from the club’s 700,000 members, who received the eagerly-awaited launch with great enthusiasm.
February: at the end of the month Iceland received a special Sunday Times Best Companies Wellbeing Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of its remarkable five years among the top ten Best Big Companies to Work For in the UK.
April: a guest appearance in “The Grocer 33” weekly price survey confirmed Iceland’s tremendous value credentials, with a basket of 33 everyday essentials costing costing £2.68 less in Iceland than in the cheapest of the “Big Four” supermarkets.
May: Iceland launched its new “Power of Frozen” marketing campaign, designed to highlight the many advantages of frozen food:
Key emphases of the campaign are that freezing food as soon as it is picked, caught or prepared locks in freshness, flavour and nutrients, guarantees quality and authentic provenance, and also offers customers outstanding value and significantly reduced waste. A major TV, press and poster advertising campaign for the Power of Frozen was backed by the launch of an experiential Surf & Turf roadshow, offering consumers in major cities across the UK the chance to sample Iceland’s new speciality meat and fish range.
June: Iceland’s annual results showed sales of £2.7 billion, adjusted EBITDA of £150.2 million and the maintenance of strong cash generation. Highlights included the opening of a net 28 new stores (including six Food Warehouse stores), the nationwide roll-out of online shopping and raising £1.3 million for good causes through the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation.
June: Iceland’s industry leadership in product innovation was once again recognised at the British Frozen Food Awards, where it won one Gold, two Silver and three Bronze awards.
June: Iceland announced that its principal charity partners for 2015/16 would be three children’s charities - The Children’s Food Trust, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) and When You Wish Upon A Star - all sharing a commitment to making life better for vulnerable children.
July: Iceland fulfilled its pledge to donate £1 million to its charity partner for 2014/15, The Royal British Legion.
September: a major programme of frozen food innovation continued, with launches this month including ranges of frozen superfoods (zesty bean quinoa, bulgur wheat, creamy spiced lentils, and cous cous with spinach), frozen soups, premium prepared meals, gourmet pizzas and premium desserts including soufflés and crème brulee. This month Iceland also published its new cookery book by Great British Bake-Off star Holly Bell, “The Power of Frozen”.
October: Iceland led the way in forming a unique new partnership of retailers pledged to donate funds from the sale of single-use carrier bags to support the creation of a new world class dementia research centre at UCL in London. Initially launched with the support of Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons, the partnership has since won support from HSS Hire, WH Smith, Booths and Poundland and Farmfoods, and is on course to raise £20 million for the project.
October: Iceland formed a new partnership with the South African investment holding company Brait, which increased its shareholding in the business to 57% by buying the shares held by Lord Kirkham and The Landmark Group since the management buyout in 2012.
November: Iceland won three categories in the 2015 Quality Food Awards with its Al Forno Beef and Pancetta Lasagne, Belgian Vanilla Waffles and Cinnamon Raisin Loaf; it was highly commended for four further entries and commended for two more. Iceland’s Slimming World Sweet Potato Curry was a winner in the Good Choice Quality Food Awards, while Slimming World Chicken Tikka Masala was highly commended.
November: The Power of Frozen won the Award for best marketing campaign at the annual PAPA Awards presented by the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association, while Iceland Pala Ham and Mascarpone Pizza won an award for best manufactured pizza.
December: For the second year running, Iceland was named as the UK’s cheapest one-stop shop for Christmas essentials by Good Housekeeping magazine. Consumers’ ability to save money without sacrificing quality was underlined by a large number of awards for seasonal products, including:
Christmas SuperMeat & Fish Awards:
Best Christmas sausage: Iceland Luxury Outdoor Bred Pork Cocktail Sausages Wrapped in Air Dried Bacon.
Best Christmas stuffing: Iceland Pork and Apple Stuffing Parcels Wrapped in Bacon
Highly Recommended: Iceland Luxury Spanish Tapas Platter, Iceland Luxury Outdoor Bred Salted Caramel and Brandy Butter Ham Joint, Iceland Luxury Outdoor Bred Pork and Jewelled Chutney Sausage Rolls, Iceland Luxury Wild Boar Paté with Cranberry and Chestnut.
Olive Magazine Supermarket Awards:
A stand-out starter: Iceland Vintage Somerset Cheddar Soufflés
A ready-made side dish for Christmas Day: Iceland Sprouts with Chestnuts, Bacon, Stilton and Gorgonzola
Quality Food Awards:
Commended: Iceland Luxury Chocolate Orange Choux Garland
2016: New Stars, Fresh Accolades
February: Iceland announced the recruitment of two industry stars, Neil Nugent and David Lennox, to create a new product development team for the Iceland brand. Neil Nugent, Head of Product Development, previously held senior positions at Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda after beginning his career as a chef in a number of award-winning and Michelin-star restaurants.
February: Iceland was delighted to be named Britain’s top online store in the annual supermarket survey conducted by consumer champions Which? This survey of more than 7,000 members of the public ranked Iceland’s online service ahead of Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Iceland was also ranked fourth in the in-store table in the survey, ahead of Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and The Co-operative.
February: Iceland received a special 10 Year Achievement Award at the annual Best Companies awards, as one of only three companies to have secured a place on the list for ten consecutive years, and was ranked the UK’s 11th best Big Company To Work For.
May: Iceland founder and CEO Malcolm Walker appeared on BBC1’s Rip Off Britain to explain how Iceland is donating all its proceeds from the sale of single use carrier bags to help UCL Dementia Research build a new, world class Dementia Research Institute in London.
May: Iceland launched the latest phase of its ‘Power of Frozen’ TV advertising with a new campaign called ‘The Moment We Met Iceland’, capturing the reactions of real families to surprise deliveries of Iceland food. At the same time Iceland began a new partnership with the UK’s only mummy vlogging network, Channel Mum, helping to change perceptions of frozen food by showing real mums buying and cooking Iceland’s delicious, healthy and affordable products.
June: Iceland swept the board in the retail categories at the frozen food industry’s annual Oscars ceremony, the BFFF Awards, carrying off four bronze, four silver and three gold awards, plus the overall Retail Product of the Year award for Slimming World chicken tikka masala. On the same amazing evening, Iceland was also named Produce Convenience Retailer of the Year at the Fresh Produce Awards.
June: Robust annual results for the year ended 26 March 2016 showed an improvement in Iceland’s like-for-like sales performance compared with the prior year, an increase in adjusted EBITDA to £150.5 million and higher cash balances of £164.9 million. A major £63.5 million capital expenditure programme included investments in a new EPOS system, the roll-out of new LED lighting across all stores, and upgrading the Iceland Manufacturing facility in Manchester that is is now dedicated exclusively to producing the Slimming World range. Six new store openings doubled the size of The Food Warehouse chain to 12 stores by the year-end. Plans revealed for 2016/17 included the opening of a further 25 new stores for The Food Warehouse across the UK, and the addition of eight more new Iceland stores to the existing chain of 10 in the Republic of Ireland.
June: Iceland achieved very high levels of awareness in both social and conventional media by sponsoring the Iceland national football team in the Euro 2016 football championship. This was very much in line with Iceland’s overall marketing strategy of differentiation, although it seems only fair to admit that Iceland actually beating England had never featured in the media plan.
August: in response to the strong growth of its online business, Iceland opened its first ‘dark store’ dedicated to online order picking on an industrial estate in Tipton in the West Midlands. Taking online picking out of retail stores in the region permits Iceland to offer a more extensive range and improved service to its online customers; it also frees up delivery slots in the stores to allow them to focus on growing their traditional business providing home delivery of in-store purchases. Iceland will assess the potential for similar ‘dark store’ developments in other major UK conurbations.
September: Iceland launched an exclusive new range of Pizza Express frozen pizzas, prepared meals and desserts, adding to its established roster of exclusive brand partnerships with Slimming World, Millie’s Cookies and Greggs. A new range of authentic Italian seafood, including Zuppa di Pesce and Sugo alla Vongole, was also launched this month, reinforcing Iceland’s position as the UK’s leading specialist retailer of fish and seafood. Other successful recent product launches have included a restaurant-quality range of Luxury frozen meat, including Surf & Turf, Chateaubriand and Gaucho steaks, and a comprehensive range of Indian and Oriental ‘takeaway’ prepared meals.
September: CEO Malcolm Walker officially opened Iceland’s new £2 million Development Kitchen at the company’s head office in Deeside. The state-of-the-art facility includes five domestic kitchens surrounding a fully equipped development kitchen, which boasts all the latest technology that might be expected in a top Michelin-starred restaurant. The Kitchen will help to increase the quality and pace of Iceland’s innovation, and gives its team the ability to replicate anything done in manufacturing, a restaurant kitchen or a customer’s own home. The Kitchen also gives Iceland new capabilities in food filming and photography to support its advertising and the work of its award-winning social media team.
October: the opening of new stores at Anlaby (Hull) and Chichester grew The Food Warehouse chain to a total of 26 stores across England and Wales, with many more openings in the pipeline. The fast-expanding chain also launched its own new website at http://www.thefoodwarehouse.com.
October: Iceland opened an exciting new style of store in Clapham, London, following a comprehensive refit and modernisation. Presenting an entirely look and feel both outside and in the store, Clapham introduced new state-of-the-art freezers to showcase Iceland’s extensive and authoritative frozen food range, and also offered a number of completely new ranges including craft beers, chilled wine, self-service Lavazza coffee and food to go. Performance will be closely monitored to assess the potential for similar refits in other Iceland stores in primary high street locations.
October: Iceland came top in three key categories in Good Housekeeping magazine’s annual Christmas taste test. Iceland Luxury Mince Pies, retailing at just £1.50 for six, beat 24 other brands including Harrods and Selfridge’s to be acclaimed the best in the UK. Iceland was also acclaimed for the best centrepiece for Christmas dinner, Iceland Luxury British Whole Brined Turkey with Orange & Thyme Butter; ideally accompanied by the UK’s best stuffing, Iceland Luxury Outdoor Bred Pork, Honey and Rosemary Parcels.
November: this month Iceland’s social media team crowned an amazing year of award-winning success by picking up “highly commended” gongs for Best Use of Twitter and Best Use of SnapChat at The Drum Social Buzz Awards, together with two more “highly commendeds” at the Campaign Media Awards: in the Data & Creativity category for “Frozen in Real-Time”, a global first linking live TV and online sharing; and in the Grocery category for the #ComeOnIceland campaign. Earlier in the year Iceland’s social media engagement through sponsorship of the Iceland national football team in the Euros won Best Retail Content Marketing Strategy/Campaign at the Drum Content Awards (beating Lidl, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s among others), Best Retail Marketing/eCommerce Campaign in the Drum Social Buzz Awards, and Best Community Management in the UK Social Media Communication Awards. While in September the team scooped the Retail Week Rising Stars Award for Marketing/Social Team or Individual of the Year.