In the early days, the fresh provisions sold by Sainsbury's were hand-wrapped but not usually labelled.
By law today, packaging must convey a great deal of information other than the name of the product it contains, including:
- Weight or volume
- Storage information
- Preparation instructions
- Place of origin
- Name and address of manufacturer
- Lot or batch number
Nutritional information is not required by law unless a nutritional claim is being made about the product. Sainsbury's first product packaging to include nutritional labelling was Vitapint, a vitamin enriched low-fat milk, in 1981. In 1986 new free range egg boxes with EC colour coding and nutritional information were introduced.
In 2005, Sainsbury's was the first UK retailer to launch a 'multiple traffic light' nutritional labelling system, to help customers recognise healthier food choices at a glance. The scheme complies with FSA recommendations and will eventually include all Sainsbury's products.
Additional food safety labelling is also provided for products such as mould-ripened cheeses which are risky for certain vulnerable groups. 'Wine selector' informative labels were introduced in 1983.
Price stamps and sticky labels have now been replaced by bar codes. Colour coding is also used to distinguish between different items in a range, for example on the lids and labels of herb and spice jars.
In 1913, Sainsbury's sold around 200 products; by 1960 it had increased to 2000, and today an average Sainsbury's supermarket sells 30,000 products, of which 50% are Sainsbury's own brand products.
Packaging designs also create a clear identity for each of Sainsbury's sub-brands such as Sainsbury's SO Organic and Taste the difference. Today's designs use a mixture of pictorial and stylised, graphical designs to convey information about the product.