The Co-operative Group has reported a 43.5% rise in food sales for the first half of 2008. Food sales hit £2.4bn during the period, and trading profit rose by 67.7% (£126m).

The results also showed that like-for-like sales for the first half of the year rose by 5%, stronger than the total market increase of 4.6%.

Co-operative Group chief executive Peter Marks attributed the success to store refits and range expansions. “This has been an exciting half-year for the Co-operative Group as our rejuvenated food business led a strong performance by the trading group,” he said.

He added that he hoped the refits, along with the proposed acquisition of Somerfield, would lead to a stronger Co-operative. He said: “We are continuing the process of re-invigorating our business, which will lead to a renaissance of the UK co-operative sector.”

However, he predicted that the economic downturn would have an effect. “It is clear that the rest of this year and quite possibly much of next year will be tough,” he said.