US natural and organic foods retailer Whole Foods Market has reported a 15% increase in quarterly net income, boosted by a 22% rise in sales.

The company posted net income of US$32.9m, or 50 cents per share, for the third quarter to 4 July, compared to $28.7m, or 45 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Sales rose to $917m from $749m a year earlier. Comparable store sales growth was 14.1%, while identical store sales increased 13.7% for the quarter.

Whole Foods said it expects comparable store sales growth for the fourth quarter to be in the range of 11% to 13%. The company expects diluted earnings per share for the fiscal year to be at the higher end of its previously stated $2.03 to $2.10 range of guidance.

Separately, US natural food distributor United Natural Foods announced the extension of its current distribution agreement with Whole Foods Market to 31 December 2004. The existing agreement was set to expire on 31 August.