Booker has announced a surge in fresh fruit and veg sales in its half-year results, in contrast to a slowdown in tobacco sales.

Sales of the group’s Farm Fresh range of fruit and veg increased by 19% in the six months to September 14, as overall sales rose 3.3% to £1.9bn. Sales at Premier were up 9%.

However, tobacco sales rose just 1.8%, with chief executive Charles Wilson admitting that the category had not met the group’s expectations in light of the introduction of the tobacco display ban in large stores.

“We’re sorry we haven’t seen the tobacco growth we were hoping for – illicit trade had the biggest impact on growth,” he said.     

Wilson predicted last year that the tobacco display ban represented the “greatest opportunity since the National Lottery” for convenience retailers, and would help drive an additional £1bn of revenue for the sector.

“The Olympics didn’t do much for independent retail, but we’re pleased with how Premier went,” he added.

The results exclude its recently-acquired wholesaler Makro, with the deal awaiting clearance from the Office of Fair Trading.

Subject to OFT clearance, Booker hopes the merger will create the UK’s biggest wholesaler to retailers.