Costa Coffee owner Whitbread has reported that UK retail sales at Costa were up 15.7% in the year ending 3 March.

Whitbread said in the update that like-for-like (LFL) sales in UK equity stores increased by 2.9%. Total group sales for Whitbread grew 12% to £2.9bn during the year, with LFL sales up 3%.

Costa’s underlying operating profit grew 15.8% to £153.5m, with total sales growth of 15.9%. It said this “was driven by UK like-for-like sales growth of 2.9%, 197 net new stores worldwide and 924 net new Costa Express machines”.

The company said Costa’s position in the marketplace had been strengthened by Costa Fresco (a more food-led model), and its fast format, Costa Pronto.

Whitbread also said it planned to further expand its food range at Costa to offer customers fresher, healthier options, and to introduce new tills and ovens to increase speed of service.

It aims to have 2,500 Costa stores by 2020, but said this would be “largely underpinned by more diversified channel growth”.

Chief executive Alison Brittain outlined three key strategic themes to develop Whitbread as a business:

-         To grow and innovate in the core UK businesses

-         Focus on the company’s strengths to grow internationally

-         Build the capability and infrastructure to support long-term growth

Chairman Richard Baker said: “This is an exciting time for the company; with our recent senior appointments, we now have a refreshed leadership team, and I am delighted it is being led by Alison Brittain as chief executive, to take us on the journey to building a bigger, as well as a better, Whitbread.”

Brittain said: “Both Premier Inn and Costa benefit from attractive market growth opportunities, and we will continue to capitalise on these by developing our network and brand strength as we fulfil our ambitions to reach c.85,000 UK hotel rooms and c.£2.5 bn system sales in Costa, by 2020.”

Lat month, Costa announced that managing director Christopher Rogers was to step down.