Food sales rose by 1% on a like-for-like basis at Marks & Spencer over the past three months.

The high street giant said sales at its food business were up 3.1% overall for the period to 31 March, buoyed by the launch of more than 500 new products.

However, across the business as a whole, the performance was less robust. UK sales were down 0.7% on a like-for-like basis and up just 1.2% overall.

A highlight was the performance of the M&S Direct online business, which grew sales by more than a fifth (22.8%) over the quarter.

Chief executive Marc Bolland claimed M&S had “continued to make progress in a challenging market”.

“Our food business has again performed well, especially in healthy food, whilst the general merchandise performance was more mixed,” he said.

“We have continued to manage costs tightly, and are confident of delivering full year profits in line with expectations. While the short-term trading outlook continues to be challenging, we are focused on investing in line with our plan and are making strong progress against our goal of becoming an international, multi-channel retailer.”

He pointed to “double-digit” growth in India and China as a sign of progress overseas, but international sales still fell by 2% compared to the equivalent period last year.

M&S will announce its full-year results on 22 May.