Morrisons has confirmed its status as grocery’s biggest winner from the economic downturn by posting a rise in half-year profits of almost a quarter.

Profits for the six months to 2 August rose by 22% to £359m, while sales grew by 7.8% on a like-for-like basis.

Taking into account recent changes made to the group’s pension scheme, profits rose even more dramatically – up around 45% to £449m, as total turnover rose by 5% to a new high of £7.5bn.

Chief executive Marc Bolland claimed the supermarket’s push to grow beyond its traditional northern heartland meant it now had a million more customers than two years ago.

“This has been an excellent first-half performance, continuing our run of market-beating sales growth,” he said.

“We offer great value to our customers, particularly our offers on fresh food delivered through our own preparation facilities, which have been hugely popular with a growing number of customers. The business is performing well in all parts of the country and we are making good progress on our plans to move from National to Nationwide.”

However, Bolland warned that growth was expected to slow in the second half of the year.