Tesco's announcement that it made profits of more than £1 billion in just six months of business is the latest step in the supermarket's expansion and string of successes.

The UK's biggest supermarket chain, which launched its own brand of computer software to go head-to-head with Microsoft this month, started out as a stall in the East End of London in 1919.

Tesco was founded by Jack Cohen when he began to sell extra groceries. His first day's profit was £1 from sales of £4.

In 1924 the first Tesco product - Tesco Tea - was sold by Mr Cohen. The name Tesco comes from the initials of TE Stockwell, who was a partner in the firm of tea suppliers, and CO from Mr Cohen's surname.

The first Tesco store was opened in Burnt Oak, Edg-ware, north London, by Mr Cohen in 1929. He built a new headquarters at Angela Road, Edmonton, North London in 1934 and in 1947 Tesco Stores (Holdings) floated on the Stock Exchange with a share price of 25p.

In 1956 the first Tesco self-service supermarket opened in a converted cinema in Maldon.

Tesco added to its stores and expanded during the 1960s and the term 'superstore' was used when Tesco opened an outlet in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1968.

In 1974 Tesco went into petrol stations. In 1997 the first Tesco Extra store was opened in Pitsea, Essex.

During the 1990s the company expanded their business into Europe and South Korea.

Clothing was next on the supermarket's hitlist and the Cherokee brand was launched in 2002.

Technological advancements were also made with the arrival of a new on-line bookstore, on-line banking and in 1999 mobile phones on the shelves in stores.

It has kept apace with changing technology with Tesco.com in 2000, becoming the first major British super-market to enter the music download market in 2004. Tesco Broadband was also launched in the same year.

In the UK there are now more than 1,800 Tesco stores and 260,000 employees. Tesco employs more than 380,000 people in its businesses around the world.

In April, the company posted a 17 per cent rise in annual profits to £2.21 billion, after it banked sales of £41.8 billion from its worldwide operations.

Tesco currently operates in 12 countries out-side the UK, including China, Turkey and Japan. It is expected to become Britain's biggest non-food retailer by the end of the year.

According to pay consultancy Reward Technology Forum, Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy now has a basic salary of more than £1 million or £20,000 a week before any bonuses or other rewards are taken into consideration.

Last month Tesco saw its market share increase to 31.4 per cent during the 12 weeks to September 10 compared to 30.1 per cent during the same period last year, figures from TNS Worldpanel revealed.

But the supermarket giant also has its critics.

Concerns over the dominance of Tesco has spawned a website called "Tescopoly" and led to calls for a Government investigation into its position.

Campaigners focus on the impact on local businesses, particularly from the drive into non-food areas, and the apparent creation of "Tesco towns" where shoppers are surrounded by different store formats. Tesco and other supermarkets are currently the subject of an investigation into their dominance by the Competition Commission.

The inquiry was launched after the Office of Fair Trading flagged fears that consumers were losing out because the planning system and tactics of some chains made it harder for rivals to open stores.

The OFT highlighted the establishment of large land-banks and evidence that firms would only agree to sell sites if they are not used for retailing.

Findings from the Competition Commission are not expected until next year.

Sir Terry strongly denied claims that the huge success of the supermarkets was killing the high street and insisted Tesco was simply delivering what customers want.