UK grocery retailer Sainsbury’s announced today (6 October) that its total sales for the first half were up 4.8%, excluding fuel.

For the half year ended 2 October, like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, were up 2%, outpacing competitor Tesco, which yesterday posted a 0.3% rise in UK like-for-like sales for its first half.

For Sainsbury’s second quarter, sales were up 5.2%, excluding fuel. Like-for-like sales for the quarter rose 4.3%.

Chief executive Justin King attributed the results to the strong performance of new space, which has “performed ahead of our expectations” delivering a further 2.3% contribution to sales growth.

He also attributed strong results to the retailer’s recently relaunched premium private label. “Customer response to the relaunch of our GBP1bn (US$1.59bn) Taste the Difference brand in September has been fantastic. We have spent the last year taste-testing, improving and developing new lines for our 1,000 premium product range which offers the very best in quality and flavour.”

The company also saw its non-food range grow at three times the rate of food.

However, while King said the company is making continued good progress, he added that he expects the “customer environment to remain challenging” and that “fuel price inflation has continued to act as a pressure on household budgets”

Click here for the retailer’s full results. Click here for Justin King’s comments on new space and the online channel.