Tesco’s History


Jack Cohen began selling surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London in 1919. He left the Royal Flying Corp at the end of the Great War and used his demob money to buy the first day's stock. From day one Jack believed in putting affordable food in the reach of everybody. At the end of the first day Jack Cohen made a profit of £1 on sales of £4.


The first own-brand product sold, which Jack promised would bring unequalled value, was Tesco Tea - before the company was called Tesco. The name comes from the initials of TE Stockwell, who was a partner in the firm of tea suppliers, and CO from Jack's surname.


Jack Cohen opened the first Tesco store in Burnt Oak, Edgware, north London. The store sold great value dry goods and the first ever branded product, which, unsurprisingly, was Tesco Tea!


Jack Cohen brought a plot of land at Angel Road, Edmonton, north London to build a new headquarters and warehouse. It was the first modern food warehouse in the country. New ideas for stock control brought greater savings for customers.


The 1930s saw Jack Cohen buying stores and growing the business. Tesco expanded across London, into the suburbs and neighbouring counties.


Tesco Stores (Holdings) was floated on the stock exchange with a share price of 25 pence.


We bought 19 Burnards stores. Over the next five years 500 new stores were purchased.


The term 'superstore' was first used when we opened our store in Crawley, West Sussex. It was 40,000 sq. ft. in size and sold food and non-food goods. In the same year, we bought the Victor Value chain.


Bringing competitive prices to the UK’s motorists by introducing petrol stations at major sites


Our founder, Jack Cohen, passed away.


We launched our own-brand healthy eating range. We were the first major retailer in the UK to introduce healthy own-brand products at affordable prices.


The first Tesco Metro opened in Covent Garden. The new smaller format brought value into the heart of towns and cities. Tesco would launch other formats including ‘Tesco Express’ and ‘Tesco Extra’ later in the decade. Our Extras brought new homeware and electrical goods to customers.


Tesco Value launched offering our customers a wider choice of products at great prices.


We became the first UK retailer to offer customers a service commitment at the checkouts through the 'One in Front' initiative.


Expansion into Central Europe with stores opening in Hungary. Within a decade we would open stores in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ireland, Thailand and Malaysia, and enter India.


The Tesco Clubcard was launched and attracted nearly 5 million customers in the first year. With the introduction of Clubcard, Tesco overtook Sainsbury's in market share.


We developed and launched our Finest range, which was aimed at filling the gap in the market for our more affluent customers.


Tesco.com was launched. The website has grown to serve over 20,000,000 customers visiting the site every month.


Florence & Fred (F&F) brings a stylish new and affordable range of clothing to Tesco customers.


Tesco opened the world's first zero-carbon supermarket in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire.
A new Clubcard app was launched in the UK, which gave customers a new way to swipe their cards in store.


We opened our first zero-carbon store in Asia, in Bang Phra, Thailand as part of our commitment to become a zero-carbon business by 2050.


Tesco launched its first online grocery shopping service in Central Europe in Prague, Czech Republic. The service bought a wide range of fresh and frozen food to our customers as well as a number of non-food items. In October 2012 the online service was also launched in Slovakia.
Tesco opened its first F&F store in Saudi Arabia. The store was the first F&F franchise store. F&F now operates in 12 markets an in three years has become the leading fashion brand in Central Europe.

In June Tesco was awarded Green Retailer of the year at the Annual Grocer Gold Awards. The Judges praised Tesco for its commitment to carbon reduction across all its markets. In October Tesco was also named top UK retailer for climate change by the Carbon Disclosure project based on its inlcusion in the FTSE 350 Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.

Tesco helped its 5000th person out of long term unemployment through the regeneration partnership scheme. Dave Pearson was hired at Highams Park Superstore. The shop created 215 new jobs, of which 74 went to local long term unemployed people.


We announce a major charity partnership with Diabetes UK. The partnership was launched as the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK reached three million for the first time.


We launched a new 'healthy living' brand. The new brand features a range of healthy foods to help customers lead healthier lifestyles.
Tesco finest*, the UK’s fastest growing premium food brand was relaunched. Over 400 new products were launched and in all, three-quarters of the 1,500 products in the range were either new or improved.


We launch our Bags of Help scheme, with money raised from the 5p bag charge in England, Scotland and Wales being used to fund projects to create or improve green spaces in local communities. In the first year of the Government bag charge, Tesco customers in England saved over 1.5 billion single-use bags.


Tesco begins offering free fruit for children in stores. The aim is to create healthy eating values that will stay with kids as well as making it easier for children to get the fruit they need.


Wholesaler Booker Group merges with Tesco. The two companies bring together retail and wholesale expertise to create the UK’s leading food business. The merger opens-up opportunities for our business wherever food is prepared and eaten, ‘in home’ or ‘out of home’ and will bring value to customers, suppliers, colleagues and shareholders.


Tesco launches a new brand and stores, inspired by and named after the original value champion and Tesco founder, Jack Cohen. ‘Jack’s’ brings customers great-tasting food at the lowest possible prices. By beating the lowest national price on products with similar quality, we believe Jack’s will be the cheapest for shoppers in its towns.