The East of England Co-operative society has announced a 5.7% increase in like-for-like food sales for the year to January.

It attributes a trading profit increase of 10.1% to the strength of its brand identity.

"2008 was an exceptionally difficult year which took its toll on many of our competitors and trading has been challenging in several of our businesses," said chief executive Richard Samson.

"In spite of this, we have been able to show an overall increase in underlying trading profit of more than £1m to £11.4m, over 10% higher than last year."

The society's Employee Dividend Scheme will pay out £813,000 to more than 3,000 qualifying members of staff.

Samson put the success down to the society's commitment to brand awareness. "The rollout of the East of England brand identity to food stores and supermarkets, plus store refurbishments and competitive pricing, have met with considerable success," he said.

"Our refurbished stores have recorded significantly increased sales and our customers clearly value the service and convenience these local stores offer," he added.