Iceland (supermarket)
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Iceland Foods Ltd
Founded1970; 49 years ago (1970)
HeadquartersDeeside, Wales, UK
Number of locations
800+[1] (2016)
Key people
Sir Malcolm Walker (Founder and Executive Chairman)
Tarsem Dhaliwal (CEO)
Richard Walker (Joint Managing Director) Nigel Broadhurst (Joint Managing Director)
ProductsFrozen foods and Groceries
£160 million (2014)
Number of employees
23,000+[1] (2016) Edit this on Wikidata

Iceland Foods Ltd (trading as Iceland) is a British supermarket chain headquartered in Deeside, North Wales.[2] It has an emphasis on the sale of frozen foods, including prepared meals and vegetables. They also sell non-frozen grocery items such as produce, meat, dairy, and dry goods. The company has an approximate 2.2% share of the UK food market.


Iceland began business in 1970, when Malcolm Walker opened the first store in Leg Street, Oswestry, Shropshire, England, with his business partner Peter Hinchcliffe. Together, they invested £60 for one month's rent at the store.[3] The name 'Iceland' was suggested by Walker's wife Rhianydd (Ranny).[4] They were still employees of Woolworths at the time, and their employment was terminated once their employer discovered their job on the side. Iceland initially specialised in loose frozen food.[5] By 1977, they'd opened a new store in Manchester selling own-labelled packaged food, and by 1978 it had 28 stores to its name.[6]

A newer style Iceland store in Clapham Common, London.
Iceland Horwich in Greater Manchester, before and after a refurbishment in 2019.

In 1983, the business grew by purchasing the 18 stores of Bristol-based St. Catherine's Freezer Centres, and in 1984 the business went public for the first time.[6] The cash investment was used to purchase South East-based Orchard Frozen Foods in 1986, and the purchase of larger rival Bejam in 1988. In 1993, Iceland took over the food halls of the Littlewoods department store and also acquired the French Au Gel chain. The latter move proved unsuccessful and the stores were dropped within a year.[5]

In 1996, eight stores were opened in Ireland, seven in Dublin and one in Letterkenny. They all closed down in 2005 owing to financial difficulties. The supermarket also attempted ties with British Home Stores.[7] In May 2000, Iceland merged with Booker plc with Booker's Stuart Rose taking the role of CEO of the merged company.[8] He left for the Arcadia Group in November 2000[9] and was replaced by Bill Grimsey in January 2001.[10]

Iceland store on Camberwell Road, south London.

Soon after Grimsey's appointment, Malcolm Walker, Iceland's founder and chairman, was forced to stand down, as it was revealed that he had sold £13.5 million of Iceland shares just five weeks before the company released the first of several profits warnings.[11][12] Walker was fully cleared of these allegations in October 2004.[13]

Iceland's holding company was renamed the Big Food Group in February 2002,[14] and attempted a refocus on the convenience sector with a bid for Londis.[15] Grimsey remained until the takeover and demerger of the Big Food Group by a consortium led by the Icelandic company, Baugur Group, in February 2005.[] Walker returned to his previous role at Iceland.[14] Iceland's website has a page critical of Grimsey's period in control.[16]

After Baugur Group collapsed in 2009, a 77% stake in Iceland came into the ownership of the Icelandic banks Landsbanki and Glitnir.[] In 2012 the stake was purchased by a consortium including Malcolm Walker and Graham Kirkham.[17]

Since Malcolm Walker's return to the company, Iceland has reduced the workforce by 500 jobs at the Deeside head office, with approximately 300 jobs moved in September as a result of a relocation of a distribution warehouse from Deeside to Warrington.[] During July 2006, 300 workers took industrial action with the support of their union, blocking several lorries from entering the depot. Despite this, the transfer to Warrington took place and the new warehouse was later outsourced to DHL in April 2007.[]

In November 2008, Iceland re-entered the Irish market, when it reopened a store in Ballyfermot in Dublin, after Iceland agreed a franchise deal with an Irish cash and carry company, AIM,[18] and in November 2009 a second store reopened in Finglas, Dublin. A third opened on the Navan Road in September 2010. A fourth store opened in the Ilac Centre in Dublin in November 2010. There are now ten Iceland stores in Ireland.[19]

The interior of an Iceland supermarket in Horwich, Bolton, Greater Manchester

In January 2009, Iceland announced that it would buy 51 stores in the UK from the failed Woolworths Group chain, three days after the final 200 Woolworths stores closed their doors for the last time.[20] In April 2009, Iceland announced plans to close its appliance showrooms by September 2009 to concentrate on food retailing.[21] Iceland's sales for the year ended 27 March 2009 were £2.08 billion, a 16% increase on the previous year, with net profits of £113.7 million.[22] An additional Iceland store opened in Dudley town centre on 2 December 2010 in part of the former Beatties department store, 21 years after their initial departure from the town.[23]

Iceland also operates stores in Spain and Portugal (countries with substantial British immigrant communities), in conjunction with Spanish-based retailer Overseas. The stores stock Iceland products as well as Waitrose's.[24] On 28 July 2012 Iceland opened a store in Kópavogur, Iceland.[25] Today Iceland operates 3 24/7 stores located in Kópavogur and the capital Reykjavík.[26]Sandpiper CI has six Iceland franchise supermarkets in Jersey and four in Guernsey.[27]

Via franchise agreement with a local food importer and distributor, Iceland operates in Malta. Initially - from 1998 - this was the supply only of Iceland-branded products to supermarkets, but from 2015 the operation opened its first Iceland store in Birkirkara. Further stores then opened in Mosta and Qawra with a 4th store in Marsascala opening in 2018.[28] The Malta offering differs substantially to that in the UK. There is a greater emphasis on non-frozen produce and stores feature fresh fruit and veg and bakery sections. Indeed in the Mosta store, most of the retail space is taken up with non-frozen produce and features manned bakery, butchers, deli and fruit and veg counters, meaning the store is more akin to a conventional supermarket than it is a frozen food store.

In 2013, two labs, one in Ireland and another in Germany, on behalf of the Irish state agency FSAI, identified 0.1% equine DNA in some Iceland products. Malcolm Walker caused controversy when on a BBC Panorama programme (18 February 2013) he was asked why the products had passed British tests but failed the Irish ones. He replied, "Well, that's the Irish, isn't it?".[29]

On 25 November 2013, Iceland acquired seven Irish stores which were previously franchised.[30] On 27 November, Iceland began selling appliances online again in partnership with DRL Limited.[31] In May 2014, Iceland reintroduced online shopping, which was dropped in 2007.[32]

In January 2018 Iceland announced the development of its 16th distribution centre with the creation of up to 1,000 jobs.[33]

In January 2018, Iceland announced that it would end the use of plastic for all of its own-brand products by the end of 2023.[34][35]

In April 2018, BBC One's Watchdog accused Iceland of leaving meat and milk products out of the fridge for over 14 hours. A former Iceland manager informed the BBC that deliveries to Iceland were removed from a lorry and left for several hours instead of being returned to a controlled temperature. An undercover reporter for the programme responsible for unloading a delivery was told not to prioritise the chilled foods, which were then left out for over 14 hours without being refrigerated despite Food Standards Agency requirements that chilled food should never be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours and should never rise above eight degrees.[]


The company has more recently made large scale changes to its promotions. In the past "Buy One Get One Free" and Meal Deals (a selection of products for a set price) were common in stores. These have now been reduced and replaced with products offering bigger packs at the original prices. The pricing system has also been changed with many products having their prices rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of 25p, this is known as Clear Cut Prices.

2006 also saw a huge surge in 'Home Delivery' promotion. This service is now one of the main focuses of the company. When a customer spends £20[36] or more whilst shopping in store, they have the option of free same-day or next-day home delivery, from available time slots. Customers can also shop online and receive free home delivery if they spend more than £35 online.

On 6 October 2008, Iceland launched the "Bonus Card", a loyalty card and replacement for the original home delivery card. It allows customers to save money onto the card, with Iceland putting £1 onto the card each time a customer saves £20, and also gives occasional discounts, offers, and entry to competitions, including their main competition, which is that each month one Bonus Card holder from every store wins the entire cost of their shop for free.[37]

As of January 2016, Iceland discontinued the selling of saving stamps at their stores, instead redirecting people to save money onto their Bonus Cards instead.

The company has pledged to "eliminate or drastically reduce all plastic packaging for its store-brand products by 2023."[38]

Identity and marketing

Iceland logo from 2001 until 2015.

Iceland historically advertised with the slogan "Mums Love It", which was changed to "Are we doing a deal or are we doing a deal?" and "Feel the deal" in the early 2000s. From the mid-2000s new ads featuring Kerry Katona saw a return to a slogan more traditionally associated with Iceland - "So that's why mums go to Iceland!" Katona was dropped as the face of Iceland in 2009, after a tabloid newspaper published pictures allegedly showing her taking cocaine.[39] She was succeeded by Coleen Nolan, Ellie Taylor,[40]Stacey Solomon and Jason Donovan, who has also frequently appeared in the company's Christmas advert campaigns. Peter Andre is the current face of Iceland.[41] The current main tagline is the truncated "That's why mums go to Iceland". Store fronts also bear the tagline "food you can trust", and carrier bags in stores bear the tagline "the frozen food experts". Since May 2015, the TV adverts have used the tagline and hashtag of "Power Of Frozen"[42] and are fronted and voiced over by Peter Andre, explaining the benefits of frozen products.

When the chain bought rival Bejam in 1989, they launched the TV-advertising campaign "Use Our Imagination," which included a song. The campaign was launched so quickly after the takeover that they had no time to convert all Bejam stores to the "Iceland" fascia. Because of this in the song for the commercial featured the line "We're at Bejam's too..."

In 2013, Iceland stores appeared in a BBC documentary called Iceland Foods: Life in The Freezer Cabinet.

Iceland was the main sponsor of the ITV reality TV show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! from its sixth series in 2006 until its fourteenth series in 2014.

In 2014 they announced a sub brand for their stores, Food Warehouse.[43]

In 2018 Iceland announced they would end use of palm oil in all their own brand products due to concern over environmental impact of palm oil.[44] It was the first major UK supermarket to ban palm oil.[45]

In November 2018, Iceland submitted a version of an animated short starring a fictional orangutan named Rang-tan (originally released by Greenpeace[46]) to Clearcast, but the submission was denied.[47] Iceland originally planned to utilise the short as the television advertisement for Christmas season that year, and it was an extension to the earlier palm oil reduction drive.[48]

Dispute over the trademark "Iceland"

Iceland Foods Ltd has been accused by the government of Iceland of engaging in abusive behaviour by trademarking the name of the country, and of "harass[ing] Icelandic companies and even the Icelandic tourism board" by pursuing legal action against Icelandic companies which use the name of their country in their trading names.[49] In November 2016, the Icelandic government filed a legal challenge at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to have the company's trademark invalidated "on the basis that the term 'Iceland' is exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition, often rendering the country's firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic".[1] The Iceland Magazine noted that:

Iceland Foods was founded in 1970, but only acquired the Europe wide trademark registration of "Iceland" in 2005. According to the Sagas Iceland, the nation, was established in 874. It is an insult to common sense to maintain that the supermarket chain has a stronger claim to the trademark than the country.[49]

In April 2019, The EUIPO invalidated the Iceland trademark. [50]

Store locations

A branch of Iceland in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.
An Iceland store in Torrevieja, Spain.
Country Number of stores
 United Kingdom 800+
 Ireland 23
 Venezuela 20
 Spain 16
  Switzerland 41
 Czech Republic 10[51]
 Angola 31
 Jersey 5[52]
 Malta 4[53]
 Guernsey 4[52]
 Iceland 7[54]
 Norway 5[55]


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External links

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