The company was founded by Canadian W. Garfield Weston in 1935, initially as Food Investments Limited, with the name changing to Allied Bakeries Limited a month later. In 1960 the name was changed again to Associated British Foods. In 1963 the Company acquired Fine Fare, a leading British supermarket chain. Following the death of the founder in 1978, control of the company was passed on to his son Garry, while the North American operations fell to his son Galen.
The company sold Fine Fare in 1986 and in 1991 went on to acquire British Sugar. In 1997 ABF sold its retail operations in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) to Tesco. These businesses were: Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices in the Republic of Ireland and Stewarts Supermarket Limited and Crazy Prices in Northern Ireland. This sale also included the Stewarts Winebarrel off-licence chain, Lifestyle Sports & Leisure Ltd (a retail sports and leisure business), Kingsway Fresh Foods (a meat processing facility) and Daily Wrap Produce (a fruit and vegetable packaging plant).
In 2000, the company sold its interests in Burton's Biscuits. In 2002, it acquired the Mazola corn oil, Argo & Kingsfords corn starch, Karo and Golden Griddle syrups, and Henri’s dressing brands, along with several Canadian brands, from Unilever; in 2004 it acquired the Tone's spice business and Fleischman yeast business from Burns Philp; and in 2007 it purchased Patak's Indian food business.