Sainsbury claims it has leapfrogged over Asda, Iceland and Waitrose to become the UK's number two online grocery retailer ­ and the fourth biggest in the world. Jennifer Baker-Hirst, new business development director, said the Sainsbury's To You service now covered 50% of the UK and was generating roughly half the food orders of Sainsbury's online customers are using its service three times a month, spending an average of £90 a time on a basket containing "products with a rich margin". "We are securing our competitive position but are not looking to take the lead. It is clear the operational and economic challenges in building an online grocery business for the long term are enormous. We see it as a marathon rather than a sprint." Nevertheless, Baker-Hirst outlined a number of initiatives that would help extend its lead over other online players. Significantly, Baker-Hirst revealed the chain had started trials of an office delivery service in west London. She also said Sainsbury had rebuilt its internet shop to create a much better "end to end service", and this would launch very soon. It is also trialing an interactive tv prototype as part of its multi-channel approach and was "grabbing learnings" about unattended deliveries through a test with Homeport (see p14) The Sainsbury executive also revealed that "we will add complementary non food over time". Baker-Hirst said one of the priorities for Sainsbury's to You over the coming year would be to continue improving its service levels. With that in mind, she said the company remained committed to a hybrid fulfilment strategy, using stores and picking centres. It had improved store picking efficiencies by 25% over the past 12 months, she said. And that was due in part to the opening of 33 supermarkets designed to handle 700 orders a week without disrupting customers in the stores. Sainsbury has two depots up and running. The first is in west London and is a fully automated depot capable of handling 18,000 orders a week. It has also developed a less automated depot, in Manchester, which can handle 5,000 orders a week. {{NEWS }}