(Jan. 28) Rising costs and a sluggish economy haven’t slowed down the growth of Sysco Corp.

The Houston-based foodservice distributor reported sales increased nearly 8% to $8.57 billion in the second quarter. For the first half of fiscal 2008, sales increased 8.1% to $18.6 billion.

President and chief operating officer Kenneth Spitler said during a Jan. 28 conference call that the company’s 8% sales growth was outpacing industry growth. He also said the company’s 10.3% earnings-per-share growth in the quarter was accomplished despite a 5.9% increase in food costs.

“We’re pleased with how the new fiscal year has begun,” said chairman and chief executive officer Richard Schneiders during the conference call. “We continue to take share in a difficult business environment with high inflation continuing through the second quarter.”

Net earnings increased 7.1% for the quarter to $264.1 million and 11.4% for the six-month period to $531.1 million.

Spitler said Sysco was focused on reducing food miles in order to reduce fuel costs and improve customer service.

Schneiders declined to comment specifically on the recent acquisition of competitor Performance Food Group Co., Richmond, Va., by asset-management company The Blackstone Group and private equity firm Wellspring Capital Management.

“We continue to look at acquisitions of all kinds that make sense for us,” he said during the call.

Sysco shares were $28.03 during midday trading Jan. 28 on the New York Stock Exchange, up from $27.61 at the end of the previous day’s trading but well below the stock’s 52-week high of $36.49.