sainsburys future brands

Source: Sainsbury’s

Members received support and advice from Sainsbury’s buyers, support to scale, as well as the opportunity to list in Sainsbury’s stores

Sainsbury’s is to restructure its Future Brands small business incubator, folding it into its product development team as part of a wider restructure of its innovation teams, The Grocer can reveal.

Under the changes, which come as part of Sainsbury’s Next Level strategy, Future Brands will evolve into a new ‘product direction’ team, which will sit within a wider product and innovation team. Sainsbury’s development chefs and brand growth teams will also be merged into the new product direction team.

Future Brands is Sainsbury’s in-house incubator scheme for challenger brands. It was launched in 2018 by Sainsbury’s buyers as a way of helping to find and develop high-potential food and drink brands. Members received support and advice from Sainsbury’s buyers, funding to scale, as well as the opportunity to list in Sainsbury’s stores, among other support.

Alumni include Swedish confectionery brand Nick’s. Beavertown, Tony’s Chocolonely, The Curators and Peter’s Yard have also received support through the scheme.

The changes shed light on what had been growing speculation among the small business community over recent months as to the long-term future of the incubator scheme, amid concerns Sainsbury’s was unhappy with the differing rate of success of some brands. 

Sainsbury’s insisted it would continue to develop its incubator programme and onboard new startups under the new structure, with a focus on “key priorities” like health and sustainability.

It also indicated it plans to continue with the next iteration of its Thrive programme which supports diverse founders. The scheme launched in 2022 with a six-string cohort of brands, including Raise Snacks and booze-brand Mirror, which began rolling into stores since last September.

“We continue to be committed to bringing small innovative brands into Sainsbury’s,” said Sainsbury’s director of product and innovation Claire Hughes.

“The creation of the product direction team will ensure we are set up to clearly identify opportunities to bring smaller and emerging brands that fit with our strategy, alongside growing our in-house brands.

“We will work in partnership with our trading category teams to best support new challenger brands through the Thrive model, fully integrating them within category plans. We’re already looking ahead to the next stage of our Thrive incubator programme and will be sharing more details later in the year.”

At the unveiling of its Next Level strategy in February, CEO Simon Roberts maintained that food innovation would be a major focus for Sainsbury’s over the next three years. The plan is the next iteration of Sainsbury’s Food First strategy and would aim to shave a further £1bn in costs, in part by simplifying structures across the business.