Strong growth in fresh meat, fruit & veg and own-label grocery lines has seen Booker make further progress in its corporate recovery plan.

Results for the year ended March 27, 2009 saw total sales up 3.3% to £3.2bn, despite the company losing an estimated £30m-worth of alcohol revenue by "not playing in the duty avoidance game", as chief executive Charles Wilson put it.

Tobacco, which makes up more than one-third of Booker's turnover, fell by 1.5%, but non-tobacco lines increased by 5.7% on a like-for-like basis.

In addition, sales of Booker's exclusive Euro Shopper budget range doubled in a year to reach £600,000 per week. Overall, operating profit was up 25% to £57.8m, helping the company to nearly halve its net debt from £47.2m to £24.9m.

"In September 2005 we were in trouble, but we've gone from having one of the weakest balance sheets in the sector to one of the strongest," said Wilson.

Premier stores have enjoyed double-digit growth and more than 30 small stores have already converted to the new Premier Express format, the company reported.

Deliveries now account for 22% of Booker's sales and sales via the internet are up 129% to £250m