Sainsbury’s in controversial roster review

Sainsbury’s is embarking on a review of its food packaging design roster, Design Week can reveal.

The review is understood to incorporate controversial plans for a collaborative system between the supermarket giant and its external consultancies, which would involve creative design concepts being worked up externally but then implemented by the in-house team.

A number of packaging design experts have voiced concern over the plans, pointing out that both groups of designers stand to lose out. On the one hand, the in-house team could end up just doing ‘backend work’, lowering morale and making it more difficult to recruit high-calibre talent.

On the other hand, the client relationship may be difficult to sustain for external consultan cies that would normally reap the reward of the implementation work as well.

Several top ten UK consultancies are under stood to have turned down an invitation to pitch for this very reason. Concerns about poten tial conflict between branded and own-brand products have also been voiced.

Sainsbury’s operates design teams for its three categories across food products, non-food products and clothing. The review encompasses the food category, incorporating its Taste the Difference, So Organic and Basics ranges, as well as its health, beauty and pet food ranges.

Head of general merchandise and global sourcing Richard Jones, who heads up design on the non-food side, says that electrical goods, furniture and homewares will be unaffected by the review. Last month, Jones made assurances that packaging and branding groups including BR&Me, Stocks Taylor Benson Design, Paul Cartwright Branding, Fab Design and Parker Williams would remain in place amid an in-house restructure (DW 24 April).

Design Week has learned this week that Sainsbury’s has invited a host of consultancies to take part in a three-stage pitch for a place on its food packaging design roster.

The process, according to sources, will include a written submission, followed by chemistry meetings and a strategic proposal. Appointed groups will not be guaranteed work.

Those in the packaging sector have speculated that any review would just be an ‘academic exercise’, given that Sainsbury’s is understood to be still working with its longstanding consultancies BR&Me and Parker Williams.

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