Our History

A proudly Canadian business, here’s how Sobeys Inc. has grown from a small meat delivery business in Stellarton, Nova Scotia to more than 1,500 stores across the country.


William Sobey, a member of Britain’s Royal engineers is stationed in Halifax where he meets and marries Janet MacIntosh of Pictou County in 1862.


After returning to England, the Sobeys come back to Nova Scotia to stay — along with their seven-year-old son, John William (J.W.).


After moving to Stellarton, Nova Scotia, J.W. starts a meat delivery business. With a horse-drawn cart, he purchases and collects livestock from local farmers for resale.


A 16 year-old Frank H. Sobey persuades his father (J.W.) to expand the family business from meat and a few local vegetables to a full line of groceries.


After 15 years, the Sobeys’ chain of stores has begun. There are now six stores in Pictou County and the surrounding counties.


Eager to join the latest revolution in food distribution, Frank Sobey opens the first modern Sobeys supermarket in Atlantic Canada.

1950s & 60s

As Sobeys continues to expand through Atlantic Canada, Frank’s three sons – Bill, David and Donald – become active in the company.


Frank’s sons take over the management of the company with Bill as president, David as executive vice president and Donald heading up the growing investment company, Empire Inc.


For the first time, Sobeys achieves sales of over $1 billion. This same year, Sobeys opens its first store outside of Atlantic Canada in Guelph, Ontario.


Sobeys triples its size and becomes a national company when it acquires The Oshawa Group – a Toronto-based supplier to Canada’s IGA stores.


With the introduction of the exclusive Compliments private label offering, Sobeys inspires Canadians with the best combination of quality, price and exceptional food experience. Today we have a line of almost 5,000 Compliments private label products.


To emphasize Sobeys commitment to food and customer service, the slogan “Just add Sobeys” is introduced.


Happy 100th birthday Sobeys! It’s a year of new milestones for Sobeys. The company marks its 100th anniversary and in June is taken private by majority shareholder Empire Company Limited.

In September, Sobeys expands its presence in British Columbia through the acquisition of Thrifty Foods.


Sobeys makes grocery shopping even more rewarding for customers, with the launch of the Club Sobeys and Club Sobeys MasterCard in its Sobeys banner stores in Ontario and Western Canada.


Sobeys opens a new distribution centre in Vaughan, Ontario, the first in Canada to use a fully automated warehouse and picking technology.


Sobeys redefines discount food retailing with the launch of the FreshCo discount food banner in Ontario.


Sobeys grows its retail gas operations in Québec and Atlantic Canada with the purchase of Shell retail gas locations.


With a mission to encourage, inspire and empower Canadians to explore the world of better food, Sobeys announces a new brand positioning, Sobeys Better Food for All, and partnership with chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver.

And in November, Sobeys becomes a leading grocer in Western Canada and #1 in the Alberta market through the acquisition of Canada Safeway. The acquired assets include full-service grocery retail locations across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario; as well as fuel locations; in-store pharmacies; manufacturing facilities; liquor stores and distribution/warehouse facilities.


The Sobeys Inc. Better Food Fund is launched to support access to and advancement of better food through donations and partnerships with national and regional charities.


Sobeys expands the AIR MILES Reward Program to Sobeys, IGA, Thrifty Foods and Sobeys Liquor stores in Western Canada, becoming the first Canadian grocer to issue AIR MILES reward miles across the country.

In August, Sobeys reshapes discount food retailing in Ontario, by introducing Chalo! FreshCo, a new store banner that provides a one-stop shopping experience catered towards South Asian customers.


Sobeys announces an agreement with Ocado Group plc to bring the world’s leading online grocery ordering, automated fulfillment and home delivery solution to Canada.

Built on the foundation of Sobeys’ strong history, rich family culture and deep rooted values, in July the company introduces its new purpose – We are a family nurturing families.

And in December, Empire acquires Farm Boy, one of the most exciting, fastest growing and successful food retailers in Canada.


In April, Sobeys expands its discount banner outside of Ontario to Western Canada, announcing the opening of the first Western FreshCo store in Mission, British Columbia.



Sobeys Inc. is a $25.1 billion company with more than 1,500 corporate and franchise stores across the country.