Northern Foods first-half in line with expectations

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — Northern Foods P.L.C., a maker of sandwiches, salads, pizza, biscuits and puddings, said first-half operating performance should be solid and continue to drive the business forward.

Stefan Barden, chief executive officer of Northern Foods, in an interim management statement issued Oct. 6, said the company has shown resilience during the first half amid tough market conditions, with like-for-like sales up 2.9% and volumes up 2.5%.

"We continue to invest in our brands and businesses, and we have a range of opportunities to drive shareholder value in the coming years," he said. "As usual, group sales and profits are weighted to the second half of our financial year. At this stage of the year, we expect to report results in line with market expectations."

Northern Foods said its bakery division had underlying revenue growth of 4% in the first half.

"Our brand investment in Fox’s supported our third ‘Vinnie’ TV and on-line advertising campaign, which helped the Fox’s brand secure its highest brand share since 2006," the company said. "Our investment to retain leadership in puddings is continuing, with a new marketing campaign for our Matthew Walker brand being launched ahead of the Christmas trading period."

In the chilled division, underlying sales grew 9%, driven by new discount lines in sandwiches and salads.

Frozen underlying revenue eased 8% due to a rationalization program to support stronger margins in the division. The company said results were affected by the closing of an original pizza manufacturing site in Ireland last year, the relinquishment of several marginal own label contracts, and the decision to end its Birds Eye co-pack agreement for supplying individual frozen pies.

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