Here’s to a Hundy! Four Square celebrates 100 years of serving local communities

4 July 2024


On July 4, Four Square, the beloved Kiwi brand as recognisable as jandals, gumboots and Buzzy Bee, is celebrating 100 years of serving communities across Aotearoa. 

Four Square’s roots stretch back a century when on July 4, 1924, a square was drawn around the ‘4’ in the calendar by local grocer and Four Square founder, J Heaton Barker.

Four Square was the name Barker gave to the co-operative buying group of local grocers because they “would stand Four Square to all the winds that blew.

Barker’s co-operative made history by opening New Zealand’s first ever self-service supermarket, a revolutionary idea that changed the way Kiwis shop by allowing them to choose their own groceries, rather than relying on a clerk to collect them. 

A new era for grocery retailing was on its way, paving the way for the modern Four Square brand as we now know it.

Foodstuffs South Island Four Square Group Manager Eugene Ruane says the key to the brand’s longevity and relevance isn’t what’s changed, but what’s stayed the same.

Four Square is about making life easier and more convenient for our customers, something that hasn’t changed whatsoever over the last 100 years,” he says.

All of our stores are owned and operated by locals for locals, and that community connection is the key to Four Square’s longevity. Every store owner is a part of their community, serving and supporting their community, and giving back in various ways.

“A 100th anniversary is a phenomenal achievement, and it’s something we’re very proud of. Our Four Square stores across the country will be celebrating the centenary with their communities and we want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us over the years – our customers, our suppliers, and our communities.

Here’s to a Hundy, and many more together.”

Four Square stores nationwide will have various birthday celebrations planned for the centenary, with giveaways, specials and a limited-edition range of Mr Four Square merchandise available for purchase instore. 

Four Square’s journey:

  • 1924: The name Four Square emerged when Four Square founder J Heaton Barker drew a square around the ‘4’ of the date on his calendar. Barker immediately realised he had a suitable name for the co-operative buying group, which would later become Foodstuffs, stating “they would stand ‘Four Square’ to all the winds that blew”.

  • 1925: Foodstuffs Ltd is registered, replacing the Auckland Grocers’ Combined Buying Association.

  • 1929: Discussions were under way on the use of a common branding on stores. Early versions of the Four Square sign were produced in the form of red and gold hand-painted glass panels for display in members’ stores.

  • 1930: Four Square had under its own brand tea, honey, culinary essences, Worcester and tomato sauces, cornflour, macaroni and vermicelli, custard powder, malt extract, butter, coffee essence, spices, salt and pepper, canned fruit and raisins.

  • 1948: New Zealand’s first self-service grocery store was opened in Onehunga, Auckland, by Phil Barker (son of the founder of the group) and Ray McGregor. This soon became the norm for grocery retailing.

  • 1950: Foodstuffs’ advertising department designed the famous Mr Four Square. He initially appeared only in newspaper advertising and on posters, but was developed to become part of the Four Square identity; appearing in every Four Square store and eventually becoming a nationally recognised icon in New Zealand, remaining famous to this day. Mr Four Square has been through several transformations to reach the current Foodstuffs depiction.

  • 1970s: The contemporary version of Mr Four Square we know and love today, is created by Kiwi artist Dick Frizzel.

  • 2020: The latest format Four Square stores were introduced across the country showcasing a revamped Four Square brand, and contemporary store layout designed for convenience and ease, including self-service checkouts, and food-to-go options.

  • 2023: The latest new format Four Square supermarket opens in Britomart, central Auckland.

  • 2024: Four Square now has 223 stores across the country.