US natural food distributor United Natural Foods has reported higher quarterly net income, boosted by increased demand for natural and organic products.

The company posted net income of US$8.6m, or 21 cents per share, for the third quarter to 30 April 2004, compared to $5.8m, or 15 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding special items, net income rose to $9.2m, or 22 cents per share, from $6.2m, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2004 were $448.9m, an increase of 23.5% from $363.6m in the third quarter of fiscal 2003.

“We achieved another strong quarter of financial results reflecting the efforts of a well-focused team and the successful execution of our sales strategies designed to meet the growing demand for natural and organic products,” said CEO Steven Townsend.

The company also said it is raising its guidance for revenue for the fiscal year to 31 July 2004 to a range of $1.62bn to $1.64bn from a previous guidance range of $1.60bn to $1.62bn. The company also raised its earnings per share guidance, excluding special items, to a range of $0.74 to $0.77, compared to previous earnings guidance of $0.73 to $0.76 per share.