US natural food distributor United Natural Foods has reported net income, excluding special items, of US$5.4m for the first quarter of fiscal 2003, up 9% from the first quarter of the previous year.

The company's net sales for the quarter ended 31 October 2002 were $311m, an increase of 10.9% from the year-ago period. United Natural Foods attributed the increase to growth in the independent and mass market distribution channels of around 11.8% and 21.4% respectively.

The increases include sales from the Blooming Prairie division, which was acquired on 11 October 2002 and Boulder Fruit Express, acquired on 7 November 2001.

Net income for the quarter including special items was up 53.1% to $4.0m compared to the same quarter of the previous year.