The household name Four Square emerged in the 1920s out of the
Foodstuffs grocery buying co-operative. Foodstuffs' founder, Mr J
Heaton Barker, became concerned at the activities of the grocery
chain stores of the day that were making life very difficult for
independent grocers in Auckland. On 6th July 1922, Heaton Barker
called together members of the Auckland Master Grocers Association
to discuss plans for the formation of a co-operative buying group
of independent grocers.
On 1st April 1925, this buying group registered a company,
Foodstuffs Ltd [later Foodstuffs (Auckland) Ltd], the first of
three regional co-operatives based in Auckland, Wellington and
Christchurch, which now form the Foodstuffs group of co-operatives.
The name Four Square emerged when Mr Barker, while talking on the
telephone to one of the buying group members on 4th July 1924, drew
a square around the 4 of the date on his calendar. He immediately
realised he had a suitable name for the buying group, stating that
"they would stand 'Four Square' to all the winds that blew".
By the end of 1924 products were appearing under the Four Square
name, and by 1929, discussions were underway 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.
In February 1948, New Zealand's first self-service grocery store
was opened in Onehunga by Phil Barker (the son of the founder of
the group) and Ray McGregor. This soon became the norm for grocery
During the 1950's the Foodstuffs advertising department designed
the famous Four Square man who initially appeared only in newspaper
advertising and 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.