US food distributor Core-Mark has reported an 8% rise in first-quarter sales to $1.3bn, with gross profit increasing by 17% to $75.5m.

First-quarter net income rose from $1.7m to $2.1m, but income from operations fell slightly to $3.8m from $3.9m. Earnings per share rose to $0.19 from $0.16 in the corresponding quarter last year.

President and CEO Michael Walsh said he was pleased with the progress in the first quarter which had seen fresh and packaged food turnover offset weaker cigarette sales. Core-Mark recently announced that it was setting up a division in Toronto which is expected to become operationalearly next year.

"I am pleased that we have made progress in pursuing our growth strategy in the first quarter, as evidenced by our recent announcement of the new Toronto division," Walsh said. "While the first quarter did exhibit some weakness in the cigarette category, we are covering this through strong growth in fresh and other food product lines. We exited the first quarter with more wind in our sails than we entered it."

Core-Mark attributed the increase in first-quarter revenues primarily to sales generated from the acquisition of Klein Candy, completed last summer, and from organic growth.

The company is forecasting turnover of $5.75bn for 2007, against net sales in 2006 of $5.31bn.