The company has appointed former Boots managing director Simon Roberts to the role. Roberts was most recently executive vice president of pharmaceutical retailer Walgreens Boots Alliance and president of Boots in the UK & Ireland.
Prior to that, he was managing director of Boots UK, before which he worked for 14 years at clothing, food and homeware retailer Marks & Spencer Group.
Roberts left Boots in July this year, and will join Sainsbury's by July 2017.
He will step into the role vacated by Roger Burnley, who was poached by rival supermarket Asda last year.
"Simon is a very strong leader who is passionate about customers and colleagues," said Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe.
"He has extensive stores experience, is customer-centric in everything he does, and I am confident he will make a fantastic contribution to Sainsbury's and the operating board."