Strong holiday period boost Northern Foods sales

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — Like-for-like sales at Northern Foods P.L.C. during the third quarter ended Jan. 1 increased 2.3% over a year ago, reflecting good trading performance over the Christmas period, despite extreme weather conditions.

The company’s bakery division performed well in the third quarter, posting like-for-like sales growth of 5%, driven in part by biscuits and puddings.

“Our investment in automated production technology at Fox’s Biscuits continued to plan, with full implementation expected by the end of the financial year,” Northern Foods said. “In puddings, we saw a good performance across our Christmas product range, with exceptional demand for the Heston Blumenthal ‘Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding.’ Our Matthew Walker brand also extended its range of Christmas puddings, which were well received by consumers.”

In the chilled division, like-for-like sales rose by 9.7% in the third quarter, driven by good performance in ready meals.

Frozen like-for-like sales were down 17.2%, reflecting the continued challenging trading conditions in U.K. frozen pizza and lower volumes than anticipated in pies. The company said it continues to rebuild the Goodfella’s pizza brand.

“Overall, Northern Foods has continued to trade in line with market expectations, despite tough market and weather conditions,” said Simon Herrick, acting chief executive of Northern Foods. “The commitment, resolve and initiative of our employees, even when faced with extreme weather conditions, helped us to deliver a good Christmas trading performance, whilst implementing major organizational change and the Greencore merger discussions.”

A shareholder meeting to vote on the proposed merger with Greencore is set for Jan. 31.

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