Tesco CEO Philip Clarke has launched a defence of the company’s investment in coffee shop business, Harris+Hoole.

Responding to criticism that its part ownership had been kept quiet from customers, Clarke said Tesco had been upfront about its backing of the “entrepreneurs” and also pledged to open a string of Harris+Hoole shops in Tesco stores in the near future..

The coffee start up launched last summer and currently has 10 shops in the south east but some customers had expressed anger after learning of Tesco’s  involvement.

“We’ve always been upfront about our investment in Harris+Hoole, and so have Harris+Hoole,” Clarke said in a blog.

“We like backing great brands, helping them to grow and to realise their potential. We’ve done it with suppliers for years. Great ideas can find it hard to get backing these days, so we’re pleased to be in a position to help entrepreneurs achieve their vision.”

Clarke said Tesco would roll out the coffee chain in its own stores, along with other entrepreneurs it chose to back.

“When the Tolleys are ready, we will put them into some of our stores. They will have proved that their brand and their offer work, that customers like it and it will be another reason for customers to shop with us,” he added.