Sainsbury’s has opened a dedicated London fulfilment centre in London in anticipation of rising online grocery demand in the capital.

The supermarket giant, which typically fulfils online orders from stores, expects demand for its online service to double in London over the next eight years.

The 185,000 sq ft fulfilment centre, which has the capacity to handle 25,000 orders per week, deploys automation technology that Sainsbury’s said is the first of its kind in the UK.

The automation – including 1.5km of conveyor belts – enables 7,000 crates per hour to be moved into 160 Sainsbury’s vans for distribution to shoppers.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said: “Operating day and night, this state-of-the-art centre with its cutting edge technology will enable us to handle exceptional volumes at high speed.

“The additional capacity means that, working with our 30 London stores that pick online orders, we’ll be able to keep up with demand for our service in London.”

Sainsbury’s began selling food online in 1999, and by 2013, sales had reached £1 billion. Last year the grocer’s online sales rose by 9% and orders were up by 15%.

The new fulfilment centre, in Bromley-by-Bow, East London, employs 500 people and another 430 are expected to be recruited by 2020.