(March 5) DAYVILLE, Conn. — United Natural Foods Inc., the nation’s largest wholesale distributor of organic and natural foods, posted second quarter sales of $338 million, an 18.6% increase from the same period a year ago.

The figures include sales from Northeast Cooperatives, which merged with United Natural Foods on Dec. 31. Northeast Cooperatives had been the second-leading distributor of organic produce, behind Albert’s Organics, Bridgeport, N.J.

United Natural Foods also owns Albert’s Organics.

The results also include the first full quarter of net sales from Blooming Prairie Cooperative Warehouse, an Iowa City, Iowa, distributor purchased by United Natural Foods in 2002.

Company officials predict the trend of increased sales will continue through the third quarter of 2003, with a growth of 18% to 22%.

“Robust consumer demand for natural foods continues to drive the market and we believe that our continued success demonstrates that our operating strategies, designed to meet the long-term needs of customers while being their leading natural products resource, are working,” said United Natural Foods president and chief executive officer Steven Townsend in a news release.