Booker has posted a 22% rise in pre-tax profits to £45m in its first half, with sales up 8.5% to £1.8bn.

The company said improvements in customer service had helped to drive overall like-for-like sales by 6.5% in the 24 weeks to 9 September.

Catering sales rose by 5.7% on a like-for-like basis to £594m, with sales to retailers up 6.9% to £1.2bn. “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 continued to lock down prices on essential items such as milk, bread, butter, minced beef and chilled chips.”

Booker has also locked in the price of essential retail convenience lines until January, with guaranteed prices on Kingsmill bread and Robert Wiseman milk.

“During the period we have lowered the price of over 1,000 products and through price-marking of branded packs, we have also been able to provide great value to the end shopper,” retail sales director Steve Fox. “This has been particular successful in beer, confectionery and soft drinks.”

CEO Charles Wilson said Ritter Courivaud and Classic Drinks, the two businesses Booker acquired last year, were performing well. A limited range of Ritter-Courivaud’s premium products had been brought into some Booker branches, and a number of Classic Drinks sites had been integrated into spare capacity at Booker branches.