OU/BBC
21 Oct 2013

Iceland Foods: Life In The Freezer Cabinet

Malcolm Walker – the maverick CEO of Iceland supermarkets and a self-made millionaire. Malcolm - who dishes out suitcases of cash to his best-performing workers - believes that his shoot-from-the-hip style of leadership holds the key to a happier workforce and a profitable business.

But Iceland faces big challenges - from its competitors, the recession, the horse-meat scandal and the British public’s prejudice about Iceland and frozen food.

Over the course of a year, this three-part series follows the fortunes of Iceland as Malcolm opens the doors to his 800-store empire and shares the secrets of the boardroom, the Willy Wonka-style food innovations and the colourful life of the company in one of its toughest years. As the cost of living continues to rise, the series takes a timely look at debates around the quality and price of food, and confronts our perceptions of frozen food.

Episode one introduces the world of Iceland - the only supermarket to have ever topped the Sunday Times list of best big company to work for. Malcolm started out in 1970 with a handful of freezers in Shropshire, and now manages 25,000 staff who provide low-cost frozen food to over four million families every week. But last year, the banks put Iceland up for sale, and Malcolm and his executive team gambled a billion pounds to buy the company back. And since then, sales have been flat.
Christmas is the most competitive time of the supermarket calendar and in the run up to Christmas 2012, shop floor staff need to make sure that Iceland does well. At stake is £10,000 cash in a briefcase – hand-delivered by the boss – for the best performing stores. Among those hoping to scoop the cash are rival branches in Blackburn and Manchester. As staff gear up for Christmas, all eyes are on the big prize.

Back at Iceland’s headquarters, Director of Buying, Nigel, is trying to reinvent the party finger food range in a bid to fend off competition from other supermarket giants. They need to come up with more of the innovative food combinations that Iceland is known for, like their popular doner kebab pizza. Senior buyer, Alastair, heads to Thailand in pursuit of exotic finger food, while Desserts Buyer Gemma is trying to get a new product off the ground. But as the New Year arrives, the alleged discovery of horse DNA in an Iceland beefburger keeps Technical Manager Trish busy and threatens to send sales plummeting.

Iceland Foods: Life In The Freezer Cabinet was produced in partnership with The Open University. Academic advisor to the programme was Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick, Senior Lecturer in Retail Management at The Open University.

The three part series starts on Monday 21 October at 9pm on BBC Two.

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