Iceland customer panel

Source: Iceland Foods

Richard Walker will host the monthly panels at Iceland’s Deeside HQ

Iceland Foods will gauge customers’ opinions on a swathe of economic and social issues, in order to create a supermarket “manifesto” that will be presented to political parties ahead of the general election.

It’s the latest in a string of politically motivated moves by Iceland’s executive chairman Richard Walker, who has made no secret of his desire for a career in politics.

Last week the supermarket invited seven Iceland customers to its Deeside HQ to meet with Walker, for the first of what will be monthly meetings focused on a different social issue. The discussions will be complemented by the launch of a new survey, which will poll an additional 6,000 of the supermarket’s customers on a range of rotating social issues, and their views on the government’s response.

Their views will be collated to create an ‘Iceland Manifesto’ which will be presented to all political parties sometime in the summer. Iceland has not said how it intends to present the findings.

Although no date has been confirmed, prime minister Rishi Sunak has until January 2025 to call an election, with it generally expected to be called in the latter part of 2024. Iceland claims the new initiative will give “customers a voice during an election year”.

During the first session, customers discussed the impact of inflation on their monthly budgets, as well as the impact of soaring utility costs and increases to bills like insurance.

“Visiting stores over the past few months, customers have told me they have had enough of being told what they should care about and wanted their chance to be the voice of the high street,” Walker said.

“The Iceland Manifesto is their chance to do just that. From what the cost of living really means, to supporting our towns and villages, they’ll leave no stone unturned, and we’ll make sure we publish a full summary of their views later this year to hopefully inspire politicians to do less talking and more listening,” Walker added.

An increasingly regular face on talk TV and panel shows, Walker was formerly a public backer of the Conservatives and had applied to be included on the party’s approved list of candidates to stand at the next election.

However, he resigned from the Tory party in October, claiming the party had “drifted out of touch with business and the economy, and with the everyday needs of the British people”, and no longer represented his views on things such as the cost of living crisis and the environment.

In the wake of his resignation, several outlets reported that his father Malcolm Walker had written to Sunak asking for a deferment notice against Walker standing as a candidate to be lifted.

He has since publicly backed Labour, and hosted leader Keir Starmer at an Iceland store in Warrington in January.

Walker had previously publicly criticised government policy, including now-ditched proposals to implement a French-style cap on food prices. Since August, he’s also led a widely covered campaign calling for restrictions on the promotion of baby formula products to be loosened, with Iceland leading other supermarkets in cutting the price of several branded products