Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe has revealed the grocer is “learning a lot” about the discount market through the launch of Netto stores.

The grocery giant agreed a joint-venture with the Danish retailer last year that brought the discounter back to the UK market.

Coupe revealed at today’s IGD Big Debate event three more Netto stores are opening over the “next few weeks” in addition to the six already trading.

“It is so far, so good,” Coupe said. “We are learning a lot about how to approach the discount format in the UK. We wanted to have some stake in that game and we’ll see how it develops over time.”

Coupe added the grocer is “on track” to open 15 Netto stores in the UK.

Like its mainstream competitors Sainsbury’s has been hit by the growth of discounters such as Aldi and Lidl. However, the Netto venture has allowed it to compete in the same market.

Sainsbury’s China pilot

On Sainsbury’s entry into China, through a partnership with Alibaba, Coupe described it as a “toe in the water” as the market is an “interesting space”.

Sainsbury’s is selling 50 products through Alibaba and Coupe revealed the bestsellers are Red Label tea, UHT milk and granola.

“Expats either have the propensity for the great British breakfast or the Chinese population do,” he joked.

UK grocery improvement

Coupe also said the return of volume growth in UK grocery was an “encouraging trend” and that, “it was not something we would not have predicted this time last year”.

Earlier at the IGD event Asda boss Andy Clarke said that even though the UK grocery industry continued to be in a “state of flux” consumer confidence was starting to return.

“Change has been fantastic for shoppers but we have to run hard to keep pace,” he said.

On the challenge for how to handle the rise of online grocery shopping, Clarke said: “We need to answer how to make it profitable and minimise the impact on our core business.”