Iceland (supermarket)

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Iceland Foods Ltd
Founded18 November 1970; 50 years ago (1970-11-18) in Oswestry, Shropshire
FounderSir Malcolm Walker
HeadquartersDeeside, Wales, United Kingdom
Number of locations
1000+ (2020)
Key people
ProductsFrozen foods
£157 million (2019)
Number of employees
30,000 (2020) Edit this on Wikidata

Iceland Foods Ltd (trading as Iceland) is a British supermarket chain headquartered in Deeside, Wales.[1] 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.[2] The name 'Iceland' was suggested by Walker's wife Rhianydd (Ranny).[3] They were still employees of Woolworths at the time, and their employment was terminated once their employer discovered their other roles. Iceland initially specialised in loose frozen food.[4] In 1977, they opened a store in Manchester selling own-labelled packaged food, and by 1978 the company had 28 stores.[5]

An 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.[5] 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, the firm took over the food halls of the Littlewoods department store and also acquired the French Au Gel chain. This last move proved unsuccessful and the stores were dropped within a year.[4]

Around 2000, the company attempted ties with British Home Stores.[6] In May 2000, Iceland merged with Booker plc, and Booker's Stuart Rose took the role of CEO of the merged company.[7] He left for the Arcadia Group in November 2000[8] and was replaced by Bill Grimsey in January 2001.[9]

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.[10][11]

Iceland's holding company was renamed the Big Food Group in February 2002,[12] and attempted a refocus on the convenience sector with a bid for Londis.[13] 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.[citation needed] Walker subsequently returned to his previous role at Iceland.[12] Iceland's website has a page critical of Grimsey's period in control.[14]

After Baugur collapsed in 2009, a 77% stake in the firm came into the ownership of the Icelandic banks Landsbanki and Glitnir.[citation needed] In 2012 the stake was purchased by a consortium including Malcolm Walker and Graham Kirkham.[15]

After Walker's return to the company, Iceland reduced the workforce at the Deeside head office by 500, with approximately 300 jobs moved as a result of relocation of a distribution warehouse to Warrington.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[16] In April 2009, Iceland announced plans to close its appliance showrooms by September 2009 to concentrate on food retailing.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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?".[20]

In November 2013, the firm began selling appliances online again in partnership with DRL Limited.[21] In May 2014, the firm reintroduced online shopping, which had been dropped in 2007.[22]

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.[23][24]

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 store 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 not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours and should never rise above eight degrees.[citation needed]

Operations outside the UK[edit]

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. In November 2008, Iceland re-entered the Irish market, reopening a store in Ballyfermot in Dublin after agreeing a franchise deal with an Irish cash and carry company, AIM.[25] In November 2009 a second Dublin store reopened in Finglas. In November 2013, Iceland acquired seven Irish stores which were previously franchised.[26]

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.[27] On 28 July 2012 the firm opened a store in Kópavogur, Iceland,[28] and subsequently in Kópavogur and the capital, Reykjavík.[29] Sandpiper CI has six Iceland franchise supermarkets in Jersey and four in Guernsey.[30]

Via franchise agreement with a local food importer and distributor, Iceland operates in Malta. Initially, in 1998, this was the supply only of Iceland-branded products to supermarkets, but in 2015 the operation opened stores in Birkirkara, followed by Mosta, Qawra and Marsascala in 2018.[31] The Malta offering differs substantially from that in the UK: there is a greater emphasis on non-frozen produce ,and stores feature fresh fruit and veg, and bakery sections.


In 2006 a policy of "round sum pricing" was introduced,[14] with many products priced in multiples of 25p.

2006 also saw a surge in home delivery promotion, which is now one of the main focuses of the company. When a customer spends £20[32] or more whilst shopping in store, they have the option of free same-day or next-day home delivery, choosing from available timeslots. Customers can also shop online and receive free home delivery when they spend more than £35.

In 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 the firm putting £1 onto the card each time a customer saves £20, and gives occasional discounts, offers, and entry to competitions—including their main competition, in which each month one Bonus Card holder from every store wins the entire cost of their shop.[33]

Identity and marketing[edit]

Iceland logo from 2001 until 2015, still used as a secondary logo

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 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.[34] She was succeeded by Coleen Nolan, Ellie Taylor,[35] Stacey Solomon and Jason Donovan, who has also frequently appeared in the company's Christmas advertisement campaigns. Peter Andre is the current face of the firm.[36] 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"[37] and are fronted and voiced over by Peter Andre.

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. Therefore, 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. The firm 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 2018 they announced they would end use of palm oil in all their own brand products due to concern over environmental impact of palm oil.[38] It was the first major UK supermarket to ban palm oil.[39]

In January 2020/2021, Iceland stores appeared in two Channel 5 series called Inside Iceland: Britain’s Budget Supermarket.


The first Swift store in Longbenton, Newcastle upon Tyne

In 2014 Iceland announced a sub-brand, Food Warehouse, a larger wholesale-type store which sells the same items as other Iceland stores, but in bulk.[40] As of 2021 there are 140 Food Warehouse stores.[41]

In April 2021, Iceland announced another sub-brand, Swift, for convenience stores.[41]


Dispute over the trademark "Iceland"[edit]

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.[42] 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".[43] 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.[42]

In April 2019, The EUIPO invalidated the Iceland trademark.[44]

2018 Rang-tan advert controversy and ban[edit]

In November 2018, Iceland submitted a version of an animated short starring a fictional orangutan named Rang-tan (originally released by Greenpeace[45]) to Clearcast, but the submission was denied.[46] Iceland originally planned to utilise the short as the television advertisement that Christmas season, as an extension of their earlier palm oil reduction campaign.[47]


An Iceland store in Torrevieja, Spain
Country Number of stores
United Kingdom 960+
Ireland 27[48]
Spain 15[49]
Czech Republic 11[50]
Iceland 7[51]
Norway 5[52]
Jersey 5[53]
Malta 4[54]
Guernsey 4[53]
Portugal 4


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  3. ^ Malcolm Walker autobiography Best Served Cold, 2013
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  7. ^ "BBC News : Sir Stuart Rose's legacy at M&S". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Sir Stuart Rose". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
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  14. ^ a b "The Dark Ages". Archived from the original on 22 January 2021.
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  20. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 15 March 2013. Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2016. Cite uses generic title (help)
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  23. ^ "Iceland supermarket chain aims to be plastic free by 2023". BBC News. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
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  30. ^ "Iceland • SandpiperCI". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  31. ^ "About Us |". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  32. ^ "".
  33. ^ "Discover the Iceland Bonus Card – Bursting with benefits". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  34. ^ Stephen Brook. "Kerry Katona dropped by Iceland". the Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  35. ^ "N'Ice Work Ellie" (PDF). Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  36. ^ "Peter Andre announced as new face of supermarket chain Iceland". Digital Spy. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  37. ^ "Iceland debuts Power of Frozen television advertising campaign". FoodBev. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  38. ^ Iceland to be first UK supermarket to cut palm oil from own-brand products The Guardian
  39. ^ "Iceland supermarkets to ban palm oil in own-brand products". BBC. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  40. ^ Halliwell, James (18 July 2014). "Iceland to launch new Food Warehouse discount store". Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  41. ^ a b Farrell, Steve (19 March 2021). "Swift: what is it like inside Iceland's new convenience store?". The Grocer. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  42. ^ a b "No solution in sight in absurd trademark dispute between Iceland and UK supermarket".
  43. ^ Butler, Sarah (24 November 2016). "Iceland government challenges retail chain Iceland over name use". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  44. ^ "Iceland wins EU trademark battle against United Kingdom-based supermarket chain". Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  45. ^ "World Orangutan Day: Numbers in decline despite Indonesian government's claims" (Press release). Greenpeace International. 17 August 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  46. ^ "Iceland advert" (Press release). Clearcast. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  47. ^ Gwynn, Simon (9 November 2018). "Clearcast halted Iceland's plans to reuse Greenpeace 'Rang-tan' film". PRWeek. Haymarket Media Group. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  48. ^ "Iceland IE store finder". Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  49. ^ "Iceland International". Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  50. ^ "Iceland Czech a.s." Iceland Czech a.s. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
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  52. ^ "Our stores (Norwegian) |Own page". 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
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  54. ^ Bonello, Claire (13 April 2008). "Supermarkets 'r' us?". Times of Malta. OCLC 220797156. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011.

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