US natural and organic food retailer Whole Foods Market has reported a 27% increase in first-quarter net income, boosted by strong sales.

The company reported net income of US$49.1m, or 73 cents per share, for the first quarter to 16 January, compared to $38.7m, or 60 cents per share, for the year-ago period. Sales were $1.37bn, compared to $1.12bn a year earlier.

Whole Foods said the sales increase was driven by 15% weighted average year-over-year square footage growth and comparable store sales growth of 11.4%. Sales in identical stores (excluding one relocated store and two major store expansions) increased 10.7% for the quarter.

“We are very pleased with our performance this quarter, particularly in light of our difficult year-over-year comparisons; however as we have previously stated, we do not expect to see this same level of year over year increases in sales and earnings to continue throughout the year,” said chairman and CEO John Mackey.

“We continue to expect comparable store sales increases for the year of 8% to 10% and for diluted earnings per share growth to be lower than sales growth primarily due to the anticipated acceleration in new store openings,” he added.