After becoming CEO and chairman of Sainsbury’s in 1969, he led its 1973 flotation - dubbed the ‘sale of the century’ - and oversaw the retailer’s modernisation and expansion. On his retirement in 1992, Sainsbury’s was the UK’s most successful grocery chain, valued at up to £11bn

What has been the defining moment of your career?
When I became a buyer at Sainsbury’s. That would have been 1951 - it was my first serious job and I realised how much I enjoyed it. It was competitive. And I liked the fact that attention to detail produced results.

In those days it was very much a seller’s market. The manufacturer allocated rather than sold. It was a great incentive to get around that. Some of the larger ones recognised that we were more go-ahead, and responded. Others were stuck in the old world. I never took no for an answer - but I enjoyed more success in some quarters than in others.

What has been the most influential product launch?
The one I was most proud of was when I developed our Tendersweet bacon. It was the first time anyone had produced anything other than Wiltshire bacon. There were real stick-in-the-muds in the UK, wanting an easy life - the main activity was to negotiate between the ministry and the farmers, and they made a total mess of that. We were very impressed with the Canadian bacon packers, so we formed a joint company to produce Tendersweet bacon. It was the first well-packaged sliced bacon - and it was well-suited to the modern era.

In terms of innovation, where we were ahead of our competitors was in bringing in scanning. We got on to the idea of scanning before anyone had seen what was going to happen. We did it with two or three shops and realised how brilliant it was and invested ahead of the game. It gave us a huge advantage.

Was there a defining moment for your company?
A few stand out. Our centenary year, when I became chairman and chief executive. That was the beginning of the expansion. When I started, we had very few self-service stores. In the years that followed, from 1969, we advanced sales on average by 19% per year - and profits by 24%. Some of that was inflation. But we built on the very sound foundations we inherited.

The most important moment was when we became a plc. That was very good. We were expanding fast and we wanted our staff and customers to share in our success. We did great things to make it easy for our staff and small shareholders to buy shares. This was very good for the morale of the company - they saw a huge gain, as the share value went up many times over a long period. Our shares didn’t do brilliantly initially, but that was to change. We believed in profit-sharing - what people now call bonuses - and it benefited all our staff.

How important a tool has The Grocer been to you?
I had it on my desk every week. There were many trade mags, but The Grocer was the only one worth reading.