Justin King (2)

Former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King has joined Itsu Grocery as chairman in a move the company says will be key to driving its ambitious growth plans.

Itsu is aiming to grow its grocery sales from £60m to £100m in the next two years, though founder Julian Metcalfe believes the brand could reach £300m in time.

The move is King’s first tie-up with a food brand since he left Sainsbury’s in 2014. Metcalfe said he would be “hands-on”, in the Itsu office on a regular basis and in contact a few times a week. “He will have a desk here for whenever he wants it,” Metcalfe told The Grocer.

He explained that King would bring his experience to help the current Itsu team, which is very young.

“I am obsessed and passionate about the product, I am not a terribly good businessman,” admitted Metcalfe. “Justin has management skill and a huge amount of experience. The management team at Itsu are really young.

“We have lots of brilliant young people and I decided to help them by finding somebody who really understands management and retailing.

“Years ago Justin also worked at Häagen-Dazs so he knows premium, he knows about management and he is a really solid pair of hands to fill the gaps that I certainly don’t have and the team don’t have yet.

“They are meeting all the time and speaking on the phone all the time. He has been really helpful.”

Metcalfe praised the “unbelievable creativity” in his existing team and said “if you can combine that with great management you are able to do really great things”.

He added that he believed the £100m target would be achieved through “continued innovation across ambient, chilled and frozen grocery”.