Healthy fast food chain Leon has launched its first-ever range of groceries under a tie-up with Sainsbury’s and is working on plans to take its products worldwide.
Leon has struck an exclusive deal with the supermarket to stock 16 products across more than 600 stores, bringing some of the most popular sauces from its menu to the masses, as well as a raft of newly-developed condiments and freshly baked sourdough breads.
John Vincent, chief executive and co-founder of Leon, told the PA news agency there are plans for up to 12 more product lines over the first year after the initial launch – and the group has aims to strike similar deals with retailers in the US and elsewhere worldwide.
Eventually, he said the grocery ranges may equal its burgeoning restaurant business.
He said: “It has the potential to be really big.
“It’s not just a UK exercise – this is about us being able to scale a global business.”
Its deal with Sainsbury’s will see the group exclusively sell products in its stores, although it is also able to supply independent shops and is free to secure deals with other retailers globally.
He said the group has its “antennae out” and is talking to supermarkets in the US, where it already has an eatery in Washington.
“In seven years’ time, the grocery products business has the potential to be as big as the restaurant business,” he said.
The initial range, which hit the supermarket shelves on Sunday, includes vegan and non-vegan sauces, mayonnaises, vinegars, olive oils, a balsamic vinegar and fresh bread.
Mr Vincent said there are plans for a raft of extra products in the range, including vegan side dishes, drinks and probiotic ice-cream.
The group first began exploring the idea of a grocery range two-and-a-half years ago and has been working in earnest with Sainsbury’s for the past 18 months.
Rachel Eyre, head of future brands at Sainsbury’s, said: “We want to surprise and delight our customers with exciting new products and brands that they can only find in Sainsbury’s, and we’re confident this exclusive range from Leon will be a hit.”
Mr Vincent said the launch will complement the 70-strong restaurant business, which is also growing with up to 20 new branches planned over the next year, over half of which will be outside the UK.
He insisted Leon would not be “taking our eyes off” the restaurants.
There's definitely a slightly less buoyant mood among consumers that we could do with getting beyond
But it comes as rivals have been upping their retail strategy since the eating-out market became far tougher, providing a welcome extra source of revenues.
Leon adds to a growing list of restaurant chains with grocery ranges, such as Pizza Express, Nando’s, Wahaca and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
Recent research from ecommerce insights business Edge by Ascential found Pizza Express has increased its supermarket lines by 10% this year in the face of rising costs and subdued consumer spending.
Mr Vincent said there was a shift in the consumer attitude over the past two months.
“There’s definitely a slightly less buoyant mood among consumers that we could do with getting beyond,” he said.