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  • Writer's pictureJulia Woollams

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard

During lockdown, like a lot of other people, my supermarket trips became rather ‘structured’. Every Saturday morning at 10.30am I was in the queue two metres behind another regimented soul outside my local large branch of Sainsbury's.

Now we all experienced the panic of the lack of toilet roll, pasta, tinned tomatoes and the like at the beginning of lockdown, and have become used to substituting our usual brands of groceries with things a little different.

When stock levels began to stabilise in mid-lockdown I started to see products popping up that I'd never noticed before. I mentally filed this as Sainsbury's having to source products from elsewhere because of shortages, but after buying Hubbard's Foodstore chopped tomatoes for a few weeks in a row, at a bargain price, I started to query again where the brand had come from.

We have Warhol to thank for us all loving a branded tinned product.

We have Warhol to thank for us all loving a branded tinned product and these Hubbard tomatoes were calling out from the shelves each week like a live piece of pop art. After a bit of digging I discovered that Hubbard's was actually a Sainsbury's tertiary brand – and one of 12 new brands that have been gradually replacing Sainsbury's Basics since last September (must be more alert on my supermarket visits in future).

Now I've always been a bit of a fan of own-brand packaging – good examples have clean design which is often combined with visual wit or clever copywriting (that big brands don't risk). And the Sainsbury's Basics range fell into this category for me – created by kings of packaging VI’s Williams Murray Hamm, their simple orange on white range consisted of a relatable illustration (that customers felt they could have drawn themselves) with a written pun as a strapline (or should I say punchline) to the product name.

Sainsbury's Basics range by Williams Murray Hamm
Photo courtesy of Williams Murray Hamm

Whilst I'm obviously a little sad to lose the friendly flashes of orange on my supermarket trips, the more I’ve looked into the new tertiary brands the more I like them (plus I realised I had purchased at least half of them as 'substitutes' in the lockdown period).

The design team must have had fun creating this imaginative world of groceries, many of which link back to the history of Sainsburys. We now have J. James & Family which is the new brand for meat and fish products, named of course after John James Sainsbury himself – the Victorian grocer who founded the supermarket. His wife Mary Ann is remembered in the dairy range – she and John set up their first dairy shop in Holborn after they married. (For those of you who like trivia, Sainsburys also named their official brand font Mary-Ann). The location of Sainsbury’s former London HQ Stamford Street becomes the name of the ready meal brand, and I do wonder whether Lovett’s Family Favourites – the brand for all sweet things – is a nod to the American supermarket brand that was around in the lifetime of J Sainsbury.

Then there are the playful names: Hubbard’s Foodstore (presumably a very appropriate reference to the Old Mother Hubbard nursery rhyme) which covers all the food staples you’d store in your cupboard; House 247 for essential household products; Just Snax which is well (as you can guess) crisps and other snacks; and I’m still discovering others.

Bye bye Basics, hello Hubbard.

As we say bye bye to Basics and hello to Hubbard and friends, the new brands have added a much needed element of intrigue to my weekly grocery shop, and I’ll enjoy happening upon more of the products from beneath my face mask.


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