Online snacks retailer Graze launched its first overseas operation in the US.

The etailer, which US-based private equity firm The Carlyle Group bought a majority stake in last year, has invested $5m (£3.05m) in the US venture, including setting up a distribution centre in New Jersey.

Graze chief executive Anthony Fletcher said it has focused on the US because it is the largest market in the world for health food. He expects the US business to be bigger than the UK arm within two years.

The launch follows a beta test in the US earlier this year. Fletcher said that an email was sent to 100 contacts informing them it was taking orders in the US. Within 24 hours, it had customers in 48 states and in two weeks it had 20,000 customers.

Graze has taken out advertising in US daily newspapers such as The New York Times and on television, although Fletcher said word of mouth would be its biggest marketing tool.

In the year to February 28, Graze’s sales rose 92.3% to £40.2m, while pre-tax profits nearly trebled from £3.3m to £9.5m. The retailer sells portioned, healthy, mailbox-friendly snacks.