After eleven years, 100 television adverts and a couple of high-profile disagreements, Jamie Oliver and Sainsbury's are to end their mutually beneficial partnership.
The television chef, paid £1.2 million for his role as brand ambassador for Sainsbury's, will front his final campaign for the supermarket giant this Christmas.
The chef said he wanted to spend more time on his social projects through the Jamie Oliver Foundation. Sainsbury's said it would announce a replacement in due course.
When Oliver launched the "Making Life Taste Better" campaign at J Sainsbury in 2000, the retailer was in decline. Profits slumped by 23 per cent to £580 million.
Oliver leaves a company which has restored its credibility with customers, reporting a 9 per cent profit rise to £665 million in year-to-year figures released in March.
His successful campaigns include Switch The Fish, which encouraged shoppers to choose alternative species such as hake, coley and megrim. The relaunch of the upmarket Taste The Difference range, backed by television advertising starring Oliver, helped free-range turkey sales soar by 30 per cent and salmon sales by 16 per cent.
However, Sainsbury's said its future would be primarily driven by growing its non-food services such as banking and travel exchange bureaux.
With consumer spending still squeezed and the supermarket losing market share to Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose, the company launched a Feed Your Family For £50 a week campaign, for households placing value over luxury. Oliver's high profile and public campaigns occasionally caused embarrassment at Sainsbury's HQ, where Justin King, the chief executive, is credited with leading the retailer's revival since his arrival in 2004.
In 2008, Oliver criticised Sainsbury's for not turning up for a debate he staged on factory farming, asking "what is there to hide?" He later said his remarks had been taken out of context.
Mr King criticised Oliver in 2006 when the chef launched an attack on parents for filling children's lunch boxes with high-fat "junk" food.
Mr King said: "Dictating to people – or unleashing an expletive-filled tirade – is not the way to get engagement," and ordered a review of Sainsbury's advertising contracts. Yesterday Mr King said: "Jamie has been an excellent ambassador over the past 11 years, spearheading our goal to offer our customers fresh and tasty food, while maintaining strong ethical standards. In our industry, it has been one of the most successful and mutually rewarding partnerships ever."
Sainsbury's could now try to break up the "all-star" Waitrose advertising partnership of Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal but such a bid would be expensive. The company could also build the profile of a rising star such as Thomasina Miers, the former Masterchef winner, restaurant-owner and cookery show presenter.
Oliver said: "We have achieved some great things. The way they take on challenges, such as their commitment to sourcing higher welfare products, like chicken and eggs, is something to be proud of. I'll miss them but it's a good time to move on."
Jamie's troubled year
Oliver's chance to "Try something new", as the Sainsbury's slogan goes, arrives during a year of mixed fortunes. His attempt to change the diet of US children stalled when the ABC network pulled his Food Revolution series from its primetime slot. He will return with a Channel 4 series, Jamie's Great Britain, focusing on steak and kidney pudding and fish and chips.
Accounts for his Foundation posted last October showed that donations fell by 57 per cent in 2009 to £315,000. But Oliver's Fifteen restaurant in London, staffed by apprentices trained to become qualified chefs, increased its turnover to £4.5m.
Last year he changed the structure of his businesses so that the profits would support the Jamie Oliver Foundation, which funds his charitable projects.
A spokesman for Oliver said the conclusion of the deal had come at the "right time".Reuse content