The history of SPAR

The story of SPAR in the early years is the story of Adriaan van Well, an innovative Dutch wholesaler with a clear vision for the future of SPAR. He was inspired by a simple yet powerful philosophy - independent wholesalers and retailers can achieve more by working together than working alone. It was van Well’s belief that only through collaborative work could the independent sector survive and prosper in the face of increasing competition from multiple chains.


The first SPAR store opened in the Netherlands in 1932. It was originally launched as DESPAR, an acronym of a slogan created by van Well to describe the organisation: Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig, which translates into English as: All benefit from joint co-operation.

In Dutch, ‘De Spar’ means a fir tree and from the start the fir tree symbol was used to identify the organisation. The seeds for the international development of SPAR were already sown as ‘spaar’, which means ‘save’ in Dutch.

Evidence of the advanced thinking of van Well is seen in the fact that all SPAR stores had the same branding and logo. He also introduced a SPAR Own Brand range to offer customers more choice.

1932: The Netherlands


SPAR continued to develop in the Netherlands during the 1930s. In the late 1940s, the decision was made to abbreviate DESPAR to SPAR.

1947: Belgium

The popularity of the SPAR system in the Netherlands did not go unnoticed. In 1947, the SPAR system was adopted by Belgian wholesalers and SPAR was established in Belgium, marking the start of the internationalisation of the brand.


In the years that followed, van Well recognised that the SPAR concept had international relevance in offering an alternative to multiple retailers. SPAR International was established in Amsterdam in 1953 to support and develop the SPAR concept internationally and Adriaan van Well became the first President of the International SPAR Board. SPAR then expanded rapidly in Europe during the 1950s.

By 1959 the SPAR family had extended to include wholesalers and retailers in nine countries.

The SPAR Guild system of retailers and wholesalers working in partnership was by this time operating at regional, national and international level. The system not only supported the exchange of knowledge and information but also provided a structure to work together and grow the business. The holding of the first International SPAR Congress in 1957 was particularly significant. It signalled SPAR’s ambition to move beyond Europe and become a worldwide organisation. The stage was set for SPAR to continue to expand within Europe and to develop on new continents

  • 1952 Germany

  • 1954 Denmark

  • 1954 Denmark

  • 1954 Austria

  • 1954 Austria

  • 1955 France

  • 1955 France

  • 1956 United Kingdom

  • 1956 United Kingdom

  • 1959 Spain

  • 1959 Spain

  • 1959 Italy

  • 1959 Italy

  • The logo changed


In the 20-year period from 1960 to 1980, SPAR continued to increase its presence in Europe and also entered Africa and Asia.

During this period, the SPAR family expanded into 14 countries on three continents. A significant development in the sophistication of the SPAR marketing plan took place at this time and in 1968, SPAR International introduced the current SPAR Logo.

Two other milestones in the development of SPAR date from this period. The first EUROSPAR was opened in 1968 and a year later the SPAR Hypermarket formula, INTERSPAR, was launched.

  • 1963 South Africa

  • 1963 South Africa

  • 1963 Ireland

  • 1969 Zimbabwe

  • 1969 Zimbabwe

  • 1969 Greece

  • 1969 Greece


1977: Japan

SPAR entered Japan in 1977 and through 'All Japan SPAR Central' built up a network of regional SPAR Partners operating both Neighbourhood Supermarkets and Convenience stores under the SPAR licence.

  • 1975 Map of all SPAR Countries


The period 1980-1999 saw SPAR continue its growth in existing markets, while expanding its presence in an additional six countries. By 1999, SPAR was present in 20 countries on four continents following the opening of the first SPAR store in Australia in 1994.

During this period there were a number of milestones for SPAR. The initiative of SPAR Austria in establishing an international daughter company, ASPIAG, to extend the SPAR concept into Eastern and Central Europe, marked an important new stage in the development of SPAR. This period also saw the holding of the 25th International SPAR Congress in Italy and the 40th Congress in Japan.

There was further development of the SPAR Brand with the launch of the SPAR Express retail format and the SPAR Own Brand range. The effectiveness of SPAR in exercising its joint purchasing was greatly strengthened with the establishment of IFAG in 1992 and BIGS in 1994 by SPAR International.

1984: Norway

In 1984 SPAR moved into Scandinavia with the launch of the brand in Norway, as part of the NorgesGruppen ASA business.

1989: Switzerland

In 1989 SPAR entered Switzerland, when a family owned business was licensed to operate the SPAR Brand in the German speaking region of the country.

  • 1984 Norway

  • 1984 Norway

  • 1989 Switzerland


1992: Slovenia

SPAR Slovenia, a subsidiary of ASPIAG, was founded in 1992. The company was initially a joint venture with the Slovenian company, Mercator. SPAR Slovenia opened its first SPAR store in the capital city, Lljublana, in 1992.

1992: Hungary

The second subsidiary of ASPIAG to join SPAR was Hungary, also in 1992. The company built the brand with company owned stores, operating INTERSPAR Hypermarkets and SPAR Neighbourhood Supermarkets.

1994 Australia

SPAR began trading in Australia in 1994 and has a history of changes in ownership due to structural changes in the retailing and wholesaling sectors. The current company was formed in 2006 and in late 2010 a new majority shareholder, Jardin Investments Pty Ltd, was confirmed. This development significantly accelerated the modernisation of the SPAR Brand in Australia.

1995: Poland

Poland became a member of SPAR in 1995 and the first SPAR store opened in 1997. Following a series of changes to the ownership of the company, SPAR Poland now has an effective retail management team in place.

  • 1997 40th SPAR Congress in Japan

  • 1992 Slovenia

  • 1992 Slovenia

  • 1992 Hungary

  • 1992 Hungary

  • 1995 Poland

  • 1994 Australia


The new millennium has seen the continued expansion of SPAR, particularly in developing countries where the modern retail sector is a major driver of economic development.

Since 2000, SPAR has entered three key developing countries, recognised as economic powerhouses: Russia, China and India. SPAR has also entered the Middle East and has continued to expand in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

The continued success of SPAR in existing countries and the level of interest expressed by new countries in securing the SPAR licence points to the continued relevance of the SPAR partnership model in modern food retailing. Asia has grown very rapidly over the past 10 years and will continue to be a focus area for expansion.

  • 2000 Mauritius

  • 2000 Russia

  • 2000 Russia

  • 2001 Ukraine

  • 2001 Ukraine

  • 2003 Zambia

  • 2004 Botswana

  • 2004 Botswana

  • 2004 China

  • 2004 Namibia

  • 2004 Namibia

  • 2004 China

  • 2004 Croatia

  • 2006 Portugal

  • 2006 Portugal

  • 2009 Nigeria

  • 2009 Nigeria

  • 2013 Qatar

  • 2014 Malawi

  • 2014 Malawi

  • 2011 United Arab Emirates

  • 2011 United Arab Emirates

  • 2012 Mozambique

  • 2012 Mozambique

  • 2014 Angola

  • 2014 Oman

  • 2014 Georgia

  • 2014 Georgia

  • 2014 Indonesia

  • 2014 India

More about 1950

1952: Germany

SPAR was introduced to Germany in 1952 and was the third country where the SPAR concept was adopted. SPAR has experienced considerable changes in Germany over the years.

1954: Denmark

Denmark joined SPAR in 1954 when Dagrofa was granted the licence to operate SPAR in the country.

1954: Austria

The origins of SPAR in Austria date back to 1954 when the first SPAR organisation was established. The modern SPAR AG was created in 1970 when the original founding families joined with other regional wholesalers to form SPAR Austria AG, a 100% privately owned Austrian company.

1955: France

SPAR was introduced to France in 1955 and in the 1990s, SPAR International granted Casino the licence to operate the brand.

1956: United Kingdom

SPAR in the United Kingdom was established in 1956 when they were granted the licence.

1959: Spain

SPAR Spain was founded in 1959 as a result of the coming together of a group of wholesalers who wished to be part of an international organisation. SPAR was the first voluntary trading chain to be established in Spain.

1959: Italy

The licence agreement to introduce SPAR into Italy was signed in 1959 and the first store opened in the latter part of 1960. SPAR was the first partnership of retailers and wholesalers to operate in Italy.

More about 1960

1963: South Africa

SPAR South Africa was established in 1963 and operates four retail formats: SUPERSPAR (similar to EUROSPAR in offer) for weekly family shopping; the SPAR Neighbourhood and Rural Supermarket; KWIKSPAR, which focuses on convenience in city centres and high footfall locations; and SPAR Express, which is operated in conjunction with Shell. South Africa was the first country outside of Europe to join the SPAR organisation.

1963: Ireland

SPAR was introduced to Ireland in 1963 when the SPAR licence was granted.

1969: Zimbabwe

SPAR Zimbabwe was the second African country to receive a licence. The head office is based in the capital city, Harare.

1969: Greece

Greece became a member of SPAR in 1969, when the Veropoulos company obtained the SPAR licence. In 1973 it opened its first SPAR store. The Veropoulos company also operated petrol forecourts under the SPAR fascia.

More about 2000 until now

2000: Russia

The first SPAR store in Russia was opened in August 2001, following the granting of the licence to a regional partner by SPAR International. A central office was developed in Moscow and partners were identified to operate the brand across many regions of this vast market.

2000: Mauritius

SPAR was introduced into Mauritius in 2000 when the SPAR licence was awarded to Rodgers & Co., a major local holding company with an interest in retail, leisure, property and agriculture. The company was sold to Casino France, which currently holds the licence for this market.

2001: Ukraine

SPAR was introduced into Ukraine in 2001, three years after the first modern supermarket was established in the country, in 1999.

2003: Zambia

SPAR Zambia Ltd is a joint venture including a foreign stakeholder and Zambian partner, Platinum Gold Zambia Ltd. The company was registered in 2003 and commenced trading in December of that year with the first store at Arcades Shopping Centre, in Lusaka.

2004: Botswana

The licence to operate SPAR in Botswana was granted to SPAR Group Ltd South Africa in 2004 by SPAR International. SPAR Botswana operates SPAR Neighbourhood Supermarkets and SUPERSPAR stores.

2004: Namibia

SPAR International and SPAR South Africa concluded a licence agreement for Namibia, which commenced on 1 January 2004. This market also operates both SUPERSPAR Supermarkets and SPAR Neighbourhood stores.

2004: Croatia

The first SPAR Hypermarket was opened in 2005 following the signing of the license agreement between ASPIAG and SPAR International in 1994.

2004: China

This important market was identified as having strong growth potential following the WTO signing in 2014. SPAR was introduced to China with the signing of the licence agreement for Shandong Province in 2004. This was followed by the addition of more partners, and now SPAR is operational in eight provinces in China: Shandong, Guangdong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan and Hubei.

2006: Portugal

The licence for SPAR in Portugal was granted in 2006 and the first stores opened in late 2007. A combination of company owned stores and licenced independent retailers has seen the brand expand across the country since the first opening.

2009: Nigeria

The SPAR licence was granted to the Artee Group in 2009, a leading retail operator in Lagos. A number of large SPAR Supermarkets are bringing the brand to shoppers in key cities, such as Port Harcourt.

2011: United Arab Emirates

The first SPAR store was opened in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2012. SPAR UAE operates three SPAR formats: SPAR Hypermarket, SPAR Supermarket and SPAR Express.

2012: Mozambique

The licence to operate the SPAR Brand in Mozambique was granted to the SPAR Group Ltd South Africa in 2012.

2013: Qatar

Q.N.I.E. was identified as a partner for the roll out of the SPAR Brand into this market. Plans are in place to open the first large supermarket in 2016. Retail space is not easily available in this highly competitive environment.

2014: India

In August 2014, SPAR International and Max Hypermarkets entered into a new partnership agreement which will see over 30 SPAR Hypermarkets operational across India by 2019.

2014: Angola

The first SPAR Supermarket opened in the oil rich province of Cabinda in June 2014, following the granting of a licence to SPAR Group Ltd South Africa to operate the SPAR Brand in Angola. SPAR South Africa has found a good partner in Webcor, an importer of foodstuffs into Angola.

2014: Oman

The licence for Oman was signed with Khimji Ramdas, a US$1 billion Distribution Company, in 2014. Company operated SPAR Neighbourhood Supermarkets have been identified as the best way to roll out the brand in this country.

2014: Georgia

The SPAR Partner in Georgia is Foodmart, an existing food retailer with a strong and successful business. The licence to operate SPAR was granted to SPAR Georgia by SPAR International in early 2014. SPAR was launched in Georgia later that year, with the opening of three supermarkets in the capital city, Tbilisi.

2014: Indonesia

In September 2014, PT. Ramayana Lestari Sentosa Tbk (Ramayana) was granted the licence to operate SPAR and has set in place firm plans to open 30 SPAR Supermarkets across Indonesia within the next three years, combining the conversion of its existing store portfolio with new stores.

2014: Malawi

SPAR International granted the licence to operate the Brand to Peoples Trading Centre (PTC), which has a 100-year history of operating in Malawi. The first store began trading in Lilongwe in 2015

2014: Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is the second country in the Caucuses region to receive a SPAR licence from SPAR International. After research into possible partners, Araz was selected. A company servicing more than 37,000 daily customers, Araz operates neighbourhood stores, convenience stores and supermarkets. The first SPAR store in Azerbaijan opened in the capital city, Baku, in December.

2014: Cameroon

The licensed SPAR Partner in Cameroon is L’Atrium SA, a joint venture between two existing family owned companies (Dee-lite Sarl and Groupe ARNO) that have experience and local expertise in wholesale and retail operations. The first SPAR store in Cameroon opened in Douala, the country’s largest city.

2015: Seychelles

SPAR International granted SPAR South Africa the licence for Seychelles in 2015. The SPAR Group sought a partner to launch and develop the brand in this new, albeit limited market and supported the development of the first store on Eden Island.