19/11/2012 09:32 GMT

Iceland Supermarket Celebrates 42 Years By Sending CEO To The South Pole

Iceland Foods celebrated its 42nd birthday on 19 November by recreating Robert Scott's British Antarctic Expedition to raise funds for charity.

The frozen goods chain, which has more than 700 stores and accounts for 2.1% of the UK's supermarket spending, was bought back by its UK chairman and chief executive Malcolm Walker earlier this year, after he founded the chain in 1970.

And now Walker is to take part in a 140 mile unsupported trek across the Antarctic ice cap to the Geographic South Pole, to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Walking With The Wounded.

Also taking part in the 2012 walk are three soldiers who were all wounded on active service in Afghanistan but have now returned to duty with the Royal Dragoon Guards and four times Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent.

The trek is expected to take 19 days to complete, crossing some of the most extreme terrain on the planet in temperatures of minus 40º Celsius.

Iceland gave more than £1.2 million to Alzheimer's Research UK last year and has pledged to donate a further £1m in 2012.

Ahead of his expedition, Walker said: “I'’ve always believed that it's good for business people to step outside their comfort zones from time to time, though I'll admit that this may be pushing the concept to extremes.

"My second career as an adventurer started with a trip to the North Pole by helicopter in 2010, followed by an immensely challenging climb of 23,000ft to the North Col of Everest in 2011. Earlier this year I abseiled down the Shard and now I’m aiming to complete the Polar double through 19 days of what I know will be utter misery, given that my natural habitat is a centrally-heated five star hotel suite, rather than a shared tent at minus 40°C."

Walker added he was inspired to inspired to support Alzheimer's Research UK by what he called "the growing dementia epidemic", which despite touching almost every family in the UK, see its research into causes, preventions and an eventual cure "pitifully underfunded".

Walking With The Wounded, the other charity to benefit, offers inspiration and provides practical support through expert partners for the re-education and re-training of service men and women injured in the service of their country.

Figures from earlier this year showed Iceland’s sales growth was faster than that of the UK grocery market, with sales up by 5.9% to £2.4 billion in the financial year ending 25 March 25, while pretax profit rose 15% to £155.5m.

It's also been finding success abroad, with its Overseas Supermarkets chain, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary of their flagship store in Guia, Portugal.

Despite trading under the Iceland name, the stores are different to UK's Iceland stores, featuring additional grocery ranges, Waitrose products and a fresh butcher.