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John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened their first shop at 173 Drury Lane, Holborn, London, in 1869. The store sold fresh food and later moved into packaged goods such as tea and sugar.
The Sainsburys took on an up-market approach to retailing. The floors were mosaic tiled and the counters were marble. Their main rival, Home & Colonial, had wooden counters and sawdust floors. The staff wore a white apron uniform and the cast iron J Sainsbury sign became more visible as new stores opened. An early, but aggressive advertising campaign saw the store advertised on London Busses and Trams.
By the early 1920s the stores each had six departments: 1) Dairy, 2) Bacon & Hams, 3) Poultry & Game, 4) Cooked Meats, 6) Fresh Meats.
In 1922, J Sainsbury was incorporated as a private company, as 'J. Sainsbury Limited'. It was Great Britain’s largest grocery group.
When John Sainsbury died in 1928, his company had grown to 128 shops. His last words were said to have been 'Keep the shops well lit'. His eldest son, John Benjamin, took over the reins.
The company continued to grow and a variety of family members joined the staff in senior roles. The Thoroughgood chain of stores was purchase in 1936 to ready the company for further growth, but the Second World War intervened and with the majority of the stores located in London, severe bomb damage and the loss of earnings combined to hinder the company’s growth and progress.
The company recovered slowly, along with all the businesses that suffered during the War years, but it was a decision in the 1950s that would change the face of grocery trading in the United Kingdom. With Alan Sainsbury now chairman, the company opened its first self service store in Croydon, London. The company had pioneered home brand goods and it was forcing the pace once again.
In 1973, the company went public as J Sainsbury plc. It had up until that time been a family owned operation. It was the largest flotation that the London Stock Exchange had ever experienced. With employees offered a share incentive, the company once again paved the way for other companies to capitalise on the potential of trading publicly.
Sainsbury’s expansion grew apace and the focus was switched to increasing the stores in size to move into the self-service age. Sainsbury’s first foray into the world of non-food sale items was a joint venture with British Home Stores. The first new Savacentre Store was opened in Tyne & Wear in 1977. Two years later, Sainsbury’s got together with Belgian retailer, GB-Inno-BM, to set up a chain of do-it-yourself stores under the Homebase name.
Continued expansion and growth saw company profits grow from £15million to £168million in just ten years up to 1985. The growth of Tesco and its positioning and marketing qualities saw Sainsbury’s lose its status as the UK’s premier grocery store, but it still makes around £600million a year, so it is unlikely to be too bothered. There are probably five major supermarket chains in the UK and their power and profits have seen them alter the landscape of retailing in the UK. The high streets that the likes of Sainsbury’s began life on are in decline, as out of town superstore complexes have taken over.
Along with its colleagues in grocery retail, Sainsbury’s has diversified into banking, communications, insurance and a number of other lucrative non-grocery businesses. The days of a Poultry & Game counter are long gone.
Sainsbury’s Ridge Ready Salted Crisps
These were very greasy and sufficiently salty to provide a reliable barometer of the flavour. The overriding aftertaste was undoubtedly oil, with a milky potato background.
Sainsbury’s Ridge Salt & Vinegar Crisps
Given the lack of effort in design and the fairly average crunch and appearance, these stood up well in the salt and vinegar ranks. There was a slightly overwhelming vinegar, but a decent enough balance of salt to create a good and warming taste.
Sainsbury’s Ridge Cheese & Onion Crisps
Although disappointing on many levels, there was an interesting triumvirate of flavours. There was onion and cheese, but also a somewhat overwhelming potato, which may have something to do with the medium thickness of the cut.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference BBQ
A Nose Plunge Test revealed an alcoholic aroma that could easily be likened to a faint touch of bourbon. They also included a highly evident meaty backdrop. There was an underlying sweetness, and yes, a clear bourbon flavouring. I had to have a second try to confirm findings though. Suffice it to say, these managed to be true to their flavour description, which in itself sounds inviting. However, for some reason, it just didn’t quite work for me. That won’t affect the mark though, because taste is subjective, and these tasted like they were supposed to.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Lamb
Kofta & Tzatziki
Although the aroma was not obvious, the flavours were strong. There was indeed a touch of lamb kofta, and with a creamy backdrop. Although I found it a bit more minty than any of the usual affectations of tzatziki.
Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Roast
Turkey & Herb Stuffing Crisps
There was no hint of the flavour within when a Nose Plunge Test was carried out. Instead it was purely of Sweet Potato. Consumers are often misguided by 'alternative' Crisps. No-one should be fooled into thinking these Sweet Potato Crisps are any healthier than their Potato counterparts. The nutrition label suggests the details and numbers are much the same except for sugar, which is more than five times the amount in this pack as in most of the other Taste The Difference Potato Crisps range. The flavour included a very very sweet Chilli, and there was a hint of Lime. There was even a small after-kick of heat, but the sustained flavouring was undoubtedly a dominant Sweet Potato.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Firecracker Ribs Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a meaty, perhaps even pork ribs aroma. The taste was altogether different. The ‘Firecracker’ aspect of the description as accurate – There was a dusty chilli flavouring that could be used as a regular hot ribs rub, but that was all there was. There was no meat flavouring to back up or make a difference.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Sea Salt & Mixed Peppercorns Hand Cooked Crisps
Small slices, greasy and well covered with seasoning, these crisps featured a heavy lacing of pepper, which was welcome. It was not quite balanced by salt, but that did not detract from a good flavour, even though it detracted slightly from the flavour description.
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Summer Edition Chorizo Salsa Hand Cooked Crisps
These looked great. Thin ridges and plenty of red seasoning. The instant hit of flavour was matched by the aroma – spicy sausage meat. The taste echoed this to a large degree, but I was a little irked by the missing tomato-based Salsa. Just calling them Chorizo flavour would have sufficed, which makes it all a little disappointing because it was a great version let down by a missing, but unrequired ingredient.
Sainsbury's Cheese & Onion Crisps Review
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a slightly vinegary cheese aroma. A second test was carried out to confirm this because it was so strange. While there was not much flavour with one crisp, a few at once and there was a nice mild cheese and onion flavour, which was perhaps a little surprising. It was all fairly run of the mill, but better than anticipated given the lack of texture and crunch.
Sainsbury's Ready Salted Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test revealed little of the wonderful flavour that awaited me. Actually, that isn’t at all true. The flavour wasn’t wonderful. There was a warm, fluffy potato flavour, but very little seasoning. Oily potato would not sound quite as appealing on the packet though.
Sainsbury's Salt & Vinegar Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test was carried out and I am pleased to say there was a slight smell of vinegar. Yay. The taste was, therefore a little surprising. The art of a great salt and vinegar crisp is to get a fair balance between the two flavour partners. Often, you will find far too much tart vinegar. That was not the case with these crisps. The vinegar was mild, and the salt was also mild, but both were balanced pretty well.
Sainsbury’s British Aberdeen Angus Steak
I have only ever had one occasion where I felt it necessary to approach a manufacturer to question their crisps. Suffice it to say, it was a traditional flavoured crisp without any seasoning. I mention this here because this was one of those rare occasions where I have come across a crisp with the wrong flavour description written on the bag. I questioned myself then second-guessed myself, but in the end, I had no other conclusion than these were chicken flavoured crisps. There was absolutely no similarity to the flavouring written on the packet. There was even a slight hint of Rosemary.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Sea Salt &
Cider Vinegar Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a smell that you would usually identify with fish and chips. The mixture of oil, paper bag, salt, vinegar, potato, and fish, combines so well that it has encouraged people from around the world to eat the traditional British dish. That was always unlikely to be replicated by these Sainsbury's crisps. There was a slight hint of salt, the vinegar was not of the malt variety, which led to a sweet acidic blend with oil and the afore-mentioned salt. There was an even balance of flavours, but it was not as pleasant as the alluring aroma.
Sainsbury's Farmhouse Cheddar & Spring
A first thought before opening the bag was that spring onion was a rather odd partner for Cheddar cheese. All too often the onion is a rather softened partner in the traditional cheese and onion combo, and spring onion is milder still. However, without pre-judging, a Nose Plunge Test revealed a very muted cheese and onion scent. Almost as if the smell was there but I was sniffing at a distance. A positive is that the crisps did not claim to include mature Cheddar. This was a plus because while there was a warm and fluffy, almost light, cheese taste, it was nothing like mature Cheddar. There was also a distinctive touch of spring onion in the background. If these crisps were wearing clothing, the outer layer would be made of cheese, but the undergarments were most certainly a sweet and subtle onion.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Thai Sweet
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a very faint Oriental spices scent. Many crisps of this flavour over-balance towards the sweet, rather than the chilli. These were the opposite. There was an underlying sweetness, and they did taste like Thai sweet chilli dipping sauce, but they were certainly hotter and spicier than many peers.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Smoky
A quick bag tear and an immediate Nose Plunge Test revealed a release of instant and intense smoky barbecue. This was a good start. The taste sustained with smokiness and even some barbecue flavouring, but they seemed to be lacking in any of the warmth, spiciness, and especially the sweetness, that you would associate with crisps of this variety.
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Roasted
Lamb, Rosemary and Garlic
We have only ever had one occasion where we at Chips and Crisps felt it necessary to approach a manufacturer to question their Crisp. You can read that elsewhere on this website. Suffice it to say – it was a plain/traditional flavoured Crisp without any seasoning. I mention this here because this was the first occasion that we have ever come across a Crisp with the wrong flavour! We questioned ourselves then second guessed ourselves, but in the end we had no other conclusion than these were Chicken flavoured Crisps. There was absolutely nothing similar to the flavouring written on the packet than a slight hint of Rosemary.
Sainsbury's Cheese Curls
After the epic fail descriptions so far you could be forgiven for expecting an equally scathing description of the flavour. However, that is far from the case. Although a little cloying on the tongue as extruded snacks often are, and obviously a clear copy of Quavers, they were very cheesy and melt in the mouth tasty.
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Baked Camembert & Rosemary Crisps
A Nose Plunge Test revealed a creamy aroma with a hint of herbs. They featured crispy surfaces and brown skin edges. The flavour’s most pronounced characteristic was sweetness. There was a creamy, cheesy taste with the slightest hint of herbs, but not a closely defined rosemary. As is often the case, these tasted better than the flavour description.
Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Summer Edition Roasted Garlic & Mixed Herb Hand Cooked Crisps
A lively, if unoriginal bag, but a really god hit of herbs when the bag was opened. If anything, I would say, Rosemary was the dominant aroma. It would be harsh to say there was a dominant herb because these were really accurate in description. Again, I would have to lean towards Rosemary, but the garlic was even evident, which is rare in any similar combo.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Roast
Turkey & Herb Stuffing
A Nose Plunge Test revealed the sort of aroma you ordinarily identify with chicken flavour crisps but mixed in with some sort of herb. The flavour had plenty of herby flavouring and there was a poultry type of effect in the background. This was not particularly chicken-like, so I will give them the benefit of doubt and say it was turkey. The aftertaste was strange - A bit like walking into a musty room that had been closed for years. (19)