Booker has posted a 22% rise in pre-tax profits in its first half thanks to market-beating like-for-like sales growth of 6.5%.

Total sales rose by 8.5% to £1.8bn in the 24 weeks to 9 September, while profits soared to £45m.

Booker’s catering sales rose by 5.7% on a like-for-like basis to £594m. “Our catering customers have ­rewarded us with more of their spend as we continue to increase our choice, ­lower our prices and ­improve our service,” said ­catering sales director Stuart Hyslop.

“In the last six months, Booker has lowered the price of over 1,000 products and has continued to lock down prices on essential items such as milk, bread, butter, minced beef and chilled chips,” he added.

Booker also locked in the prices of essential retail convenience lines until January 2012, with guaranteed prices on Kingsmill bread and Robert Wiseman milk. Like-for-like sales to retailers grew by 6.9% to £1.2bn, with fruit & veg sales rising 34%.