Sainsbury’s outgoing chief executive Justin King said that the “best years are still to come” for the grocer and denied he was stepping down when Sainsbury’s was at the top of its game.

King, who steps down in July after 10 years, said: “Part of being a good leader is knowing when the time is right to step down and that time is now.

“The last big decision a leader needs to make is to leave when the business has plenty of growth. Sainsbury’s will go on to greater things in the future and the best years are still to come.”

Sainsbury’s delivered its 36th consecutive period of like-for-like growth over Christmas but analysts have warned that this growth may come to an end in the increasingly tough food sector. King said that the trading environment over Christmas was “the toughest in his 30 years of retailing”.

But King was confident that Sainsbury’s would continue to flourish and dismissed comparisons to other chief executives who have stepped down at the top of their game.