Mr Kipling maker buoyed by 'healthier eating habits' during pandemic as sales hit the mark

Premier Foods, the food giant behind brands such as Mr Kipling, Ambrosia and Sharwood’s, has hailed a “very encouraging” start to the financial year as sales hit the top end of its targets for the past quarter.

The group reported a 13.2 per cent decline in total sales for the 13 weeks to July 3 compared with the same period last year, when the initial national lockdown led to “exceptionally high grocery volumes”.

However, there was a 6.3 per cent rise in sales compared with the same period in 2019 before the pandemic-fuelled jump.

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The firm said it had been buoyed by progress with healthier ranges such as Sharwood's low-fat cooking sauces as customers adopted “good healthier eating habits” during the pandemic.

Premier Foods is the food giant behind popular consumer brands including Mr Kipling, Ambrosia and Sharwood’s. Picture: David Parry/PA

Bosses highlighted “particularly strong progress” at the Ambrosia, Bisto, Oxo, Sharwood’s and Paxo brands, which all reported double-digit growth against 2019’s levels.

Non-branded grocery sales were lower compared with two years ago amid a “slow recovery in the group’s out-of-home businesses in the quarter”.

Meanwhile, sales of its Cadbury cakes were “impacted by the earlier timing of Easter” compared with other years, while lower margin non-branded sales dipped due to the end of contracts.

Premier Foods chief executive Alex Whitehouse said: “We have made a very encouraging start to the year, with quarter one sales at the top end of our expectations, as our brands again benefited from the introduction of new products and continued marketing.

“When compared to two years ago, our branded sales increased by over 9 per cent, with grocery brands up 12 per cent, continuing the strong momentum of recent years.”

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