United Natural Foods (UNFI) has today (8 September) posted an increase in annual sales and profits.

The US natural and organic distributor’s operating income for the year ending 28 July increased 12.9% to US$129.7m.  Net income was up 12.2% at $76.7m. Earnings per share were $1.60, compared to $1.57 a year earlier.

Net sales, meanwhile, totalled US$4.53bn, a 20.6% increase over the prior fiscal year.

UNFI said a continued shift in customer mix meant gross margin was 34 basis points lower than the comparable prior year period, at 18.2% of net sales for fiscal 2011. Gross margin was also hit by start-up costs related to the company’s new distribution facility in Lancaster in Texas.

“Fiscal 2011 was a transitional year for UNFI, as we generated over 20% sales growth, and record net income,” Steven Spinner, the company’s president and CEO, said. “As we look forward to fiscal 2012, we plan to continue the roll-out of our new warehouse management system, while focusing on increasing service levels and operational productivity.”

The company is positive about the upcoming year, predicting net sales in the range of $5-5.1bn, an increase of approximately 10.4-12.6% over fiscal 2011. UNFI also forecast earnings per share of $1.75-1.87.