The Co-operative Group, the UK's largest co-operative society, has reported a 4.4% increase in like-for-like food sales for the year to 13 January.

The society also said that in the first 10 weeks of 2007, like-for-like food sales were up 7.2% year-on-year, marking five consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth.

Full-year operating profit for food rose 29.2% to £92.5m, on total sales up 1.8% to £3.04bn. Food retail accounts for 40% of the Co-op Group's business.

“The vision of our food retail business remains to be the UK's preferred community food retailer and the progress we have made is testimony to the hard work of the team,” said Martin Beaumont, CEO of Co-op Group.

Group pre-tax profit rose 17.6% to £318m on sales down 0.7% to £7.3bn.

The society is in the process of merging with United Co-operatives, the UK's second largest co-op. Beaumont said the merger would “help secure the co-operative sector's place in the UK economy for many years to come”.