The chief executive of United Natural Foods (UNFI) has pointed to the US grocery distributor’s “sales strength” after the company generated US$1bn of sales in a quarter for the first time.

UNFI posted a 19% rise in first-quarter net sales to US$1.05bn for the three months to 30 October.

The recent acquisition of SunOpta‘s distribution business in Canada and UNFI’s extended distribution deal with US organic retailer Whole Foods Market. However, excluding those transactions, UNFI’s sales were up 12.3% to $993.6m.

UNFI’s operating income climbed 9% to $29.7m. The company’s net income rose 12% to $17.4m.

“The operating results for our fiscal 2011 first quarter reflect the sales strength we continue to achieve across our distribution channels,” said UNFI president and CEO Steven Spinner.

Click here for the full statement from UNFI.