The Co-operative Group has announced annual growth in food sales with like-for-likes up 1.6%, while volumes also grew 5%.

Its core convenience business grew “ahead of market” with like-for-like sales up 3.8%, which the group attributed to investment in price and products.

The Co-op also opened a total of 97 new stores in 2015, taking its estate to over 2,800 stores across the UK, while it also carried out 264 refits nationally.

An investment of £125m in lowering food prices and supporting healthier eating choices resulted in a 15% cut in fruit and vegetable prices in 2015.

Richard Pennycook, chief executive of The Co-operative Group, said: “This has been a year of further progress at the Co-op as we have invested to drive the growth of our businesses. Underlying profits have increased but our priority this year has been on putting the building blocks in place for the long-term. Whether it’s our investment in lowering prices, rewarding colleagues or campaigning on key issues, we are taking the right steps and the performance of our businesses and the feedback from our members shows us we are on the right track.”

Allan Leighton, independent non-executive chair of The Co-operative Group, said: “The Co-op’s confidence is growing and our members, customers and colleagues are starting to see the difference. We are now the UK’s most frequently visited food retailer. Our ownership model allows us to invest for the long-term and our members and our customers are seeing the results as we improve our offer and demonstrate what makes us different as an organisation.”

The Co-op’s other core missions for the year included piloting a scheme to champion locally sourced food within Yorkshire, working with 50 local suppliers and reducing waste at its food depots through joining charity FareShare which sends surplus food to food banks.