It’s the latest big-name chain to enter into retail, but rather than targeting the ready meal market, Leon has gone for a range of grocery products that are designed for use at home.
Rolling out into 600 Sainsbury’s stores, the 14-strong line-up consists primarily of condiments, including vegan and non-vegan sauces, mayonnaises, vinegars and olive oils. There are also fresh breads that will initially appear in 32 stores.
The healthy eating chain said the move into retail was aimed at expanding beyond its London-focused footprint and giving people across the country quick and convenient ways to bring its food into their kitchens.
The first range will pave the way for future launches, with regular new products scheduled to follow in 2020 and beyond, it added.
“Sainsbury’s is a supermarket that, like us, puts food and flavour first, so teaming up together just makes sense. Now we’re embarking on a partnership that champions food innovation, alongside our values,” said John Vincent, co-founder of Leon. “This brand-new range is an important step for us as a business as we grow beyond restaurants.”
Flavouring the aisles
So what’s on the shelves? On the condiments side of things there’s aioli, mayonnaise, ketchup, chilli sauce, beetroot ketchup and tamarind brown sauce.
The aioli and ketchup both reflect existing sauces on Leon’s menu, while the tamarind brown sauce offering consumers a new alternative – to make it, Leon says it traced the condiment back to its traditional Indian roots, delivering a clear, sweet-sour structure to spice up meal times.
Four vegan mayos made the range, all based on faba beans, which act as an egg replacement.
Another arm of the product development focuses on oils for salads, cooking vegetables and dipping bread: extra virgin Spanish olive oil, cold-pressed virgin avocado oil, and a balsamic and extra virgin olive oil are all new items, the extra virgin olive oil made exclusively with Picual olives and boasting an herbaceous, grassy aroma, a full olive-fruit flavour and a peppery finish, according to Leon.
It also has a high oleic acid content, which research has suggested reduces inflammation.
Leon has launched into the bread aisle as well with its recipes for super white sourdough loaf, quinoa sourdough, sweet potato and carrot sourdough, and rye pumpernickel sourdough, which will be made fresh every day in Sainsbury’s in-store bakeries.
The sourdoughs are created using a 20-year-old mother starter. Each day, a piece is drawn from the 'mother' to create the next batch and the dough is then fermented for 20 hours and left to rest for a further three hours, before being shaped and divided, and left to rest again for three more hours.
“At Sainsbury’s, we’re constantly looking for ways to offer our customers new and innovative products, and Leon’s flavour-first philosophy can help us do just that,” added Rachel Eyre, head of Future Brands at Sainsbury’s. “This initial range will be followed by further innovation and we will be working closely with Leon and with our customers to decide where to take it next.”
Does Sparkie see this as a bold move for the brand?
I think this launch plays the middle ground nicely. There are a bunch of safe products in there but they are also clearly testing out their innovative end to see how consumers react to the more obscure products.
There were predictions about branded restaurants moving to take up more retail space and this seems to be coming to fruition. As long as it is a recognisable and respected restaurant brand then their products should hold some sway with consumers for that initial purchase.
They will have to be careful though as poor products could damage their restaurant image too, especially if the retail end of the brand is the first thing that a consumer tries.