Tesco has taken its US chain Fresh & Easy to Sacramento, California's state capital.

The UK retailer said yesterday (31 August) that it plans to open six stores in and around the city next year.

In January, Tesco announced plans to open its first stores in northern California and so far it has opened 13 outlets.

"We're excited to continue to expand to new neighborhoods and create good jobs throughout California," Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason said at a ceremony to mark the construction of the first store, to be located in Oak Park in the south of the city. "We believe everyone deserves access to fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices and we are looking forward to introducing Sacramento to Fresh & Easy."

Speculation continues to surround the future of Tesco's US venture, which was launched in 2007 but remains in the red. In the year to 26 February, Fresh & Easy's sales climbed more than 38% but it made a trading loss of GBP186m (US$301.6m), 9.7% higher than a year earlier.

When the results were announced in April, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke said it was "essential" that Fresh & Easy's losses come down in the year ahead. However, he insisted he was confident that Fresh & Easy would be profitable by the end of 2012/13.

Nevertheless, industry watchers are unsure whether Tesco can turn Fresh & Easy around and speculation over the venture intensified yesterday when Clarke announced the UK's largest retailer would quit Japan after eight years in the market.