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Salling Group

‘Denmark's largest supermarket retail chain.

Photograph: Pexels

Text: Mariano Anthony Davies

The story of the Salling Group is a tale of a business adventure that stretches back more than 110 years and is today Denmark's largest grocery retail business - a group that continues to develop. Together with the Salling Foundations, they use their profits to invest in activities that help and inspire their customers in everyday life.

Salling Group is today 100% owned by Købmand Herman Sallings Fond and Købmand Ferdinand Sallings Memorial Fond - together, the Salling Foundations. This means that the profits from the Salling Group alone go to two purposes: investments in the company and donations via the Salling Foundations.

Its grocery stores are visited by over 10 million customers every week, and these 1.700 stores, branded as føtex, Netto and Bilka, are manned by 60.000 employees.


Salling Group's history spans more than 100 years. The company has developed dramatically over the years, and what began as a small manufacturing shop in Aarhus is today an international retail group.

In 1906, Ferdinand Salling opened his manufacturing shop in Aarhus. The store grew gradually, and in 1948, the first part of Salling Stormagasin opened. After Ferdinand died in 1953, his son Herman Salling took over the business and began to modernise and expand Salling Stormagasiner.

Just like his father, Herman was an entrepreneur, and in 1960, he established Jysk Supermarked (Jutland's Supermarket) to realise his plans to build chains of supermarkets and department stores. He founded Denmark's first supermarket, føtex, and in the following years, the business grew and became the basis for the Salling Group.

The first supermarket opened its doors in Aarhus with a wide range of food, non-food and textile goods – hence the name Føtex (food and textiles). The success of this business venture led to the opening of Bilka (Denmark's first hypermarket) a decade later, and in 1981, the Salling Group opened its first Netto store in Copenhagen, offering customers the most important everyday goods at affordable prices. These stores were initially open 24 hours a day. However, they were so successful that this 24-hour service was phased out in 2016.

After nearly a decade, in 1990, the Netto store concept was exported initially to Great Britain and Germany followed by Poland in 1995 and Sweden in 2002.

"Salling Group's primary strategic priorities are climate and health, because it believes that it can make a significant difference here."

Growth strategy

In 1964, to finance his ambitions for growth, Herman Salling invited AP Møller-Mærsk to become a partner in Jutland's Supermarket with a 50% ownership stake. In the same year, the company changed its name to Dansk Supermarked (Danish Supermarket).

In 1982, AP Møller-Mærsk increased its ownership to 68% by buying the part of the company that Herman's sister Inger had inherited from their father. The Salling Foundation thus owned 32% of the company.

However, in January 2014, the Group had generated sufficient capital for the Salling Foundation to reacquire 49% of AP Møller-Mærsk's shares. The two foundations thus gained the majority with an ownership share of 81%, and in November 2017, the process was completed when the Salling Foundation bought the remaining 19% of the shares. The Group is now 100% owned by the Salling Foundation.

Strategic priorities

Salling Group's primary strategic priorities are climate and health, because it believes that it can make a significant difference here. It seeks to make it easier for its customers to act more responsibly and live healthier in everyday life - today and in the future.

Before 2030, Salling Group plans to:

  • Half its own operational CO2 emissions.

  • Require that 3/4 of its suppliers have approved climate goals.

  • Recycle 85% of its own waste.

  • Half its food waste.

Salling Group has joined the UN's Paris Agreement with the ambition to keep human-made temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees. The objectives set have been validated by the internationally recognised Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) - net zero by 2050. This means that they are reducing emissions from their own operations to the greatest extent possible while at the same time ensuring that remaining greenhouse gases are absorbed and stored naturally.

They would like to ensure that there are even more products with the government-regulated nutrition label Nøglehullet (the Keyhole label). In the future, it will be even clearer for customers to identify products with the Keyhole label.

The Keyhole label signifies that these are products that contain a high amount of fibre and whole grain and generally have lower levels of fat, unsaturated fat, sugar and salt. In addition to the Keyhole label, they will continually share more recipes on social media platforms, focusing on greener dishes and providing inspiration for plant-based meals.

Salling Group is the largest supermarket retail chain in Denmark with an annual turnover of €8.94 billion as of 2022. Originally known as Dansk Supermarked, Salling Group operates the brands Bilka, føtex, Netto, Salling and online with,, fø, and fø

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