Tesco expects to make a profit within a year or two of its grand entry into the United States next summer and is on its way to building up a 200-strong team to lead its venture on to Wal-Mart's home turf.

US chief executive Tim Mason, speaking to The Grocer after he flew in for the company's annual general meeting in London last week, said that he had spent the year so far reviewing the research compiled on the US shopping market. "I'm really encouraged by the way US consumers seem to have responded to what we have proposed."

It has now built a team of 60 in the US, said Mason, including a dozen people from the UK, but intended to create a head office of 200 staff at what will be its HQ, in El Segundo, California.

Tesco's Korean chief financial officer, Remco Waller, is the latest senior figure to join the team in the United States.

Earlier this month, Tesco confirmed that its UK property acquisitions director Tony Eggs had been recruited to the US as chief real estate officer (The Grocer,

1 July, p11). It is also recruiting in the US for a director of stock management and a director of logistics and planning, as well as various project management and merchandiser roles.

"We're attracting some very high quality people from lots of businesses," said Mason. "There's a great deal of excitement, but there is still a huge amount to do."

But Planet Retail analyst Bryan Roberts tempered Mason's enthusiasm, saying the supermarket's name would be met with a blank stare on the streets of Los Angeles, where Tesco is planning to open one of its first stores.

But he added: "Once it starts throwing around cash on marketing that will change. If its stores are anything like its Express or Metro formats they should go down well as standards in the American market are very low, with food service meaning warm hot dogs and stores selling beer, fags and pornography.

"Getting the supply chain right is vital and Tesco needs to be seeking out local private label partners pretty sharpish."

Mason confirmed that it would operate from its own distribution facility but only currently had plans for one depot - a 1.4 million square foot warehouse in Riverside, California - that would be open before next summer in order to meet its launch schedule.

He would not give an indication as to how many stores it planned to open with its £250m annual investment, other than saying "quite a number" were in the pipeline.

Mason also refused to confirm that Fresh & Easy would be the name of the chain, following the trademarking of the name in the UK last year and in the US in May. "But we have also registered Tesco USA," he added.

Tesco had previously admitted it had been researching the US market for over a decade.

However, The Grocer can reveal that as far back as 1990 Tesco was filing trademarks in the United States.