Premier Foods sales slide as ingredient prices rise

BRITAIN’S biggest food manufacturer Premier Foods reported a 3.1 per cent decline in first-quarter sales yesterday and said the consumer environment had become more difficult.

The maker of Branston pickle, Bisto gravy and Hovis bread said its performance reflected the impact of a weak January and February following strong consumer purchases in December. Premier Foods, which also makes Mr Kipling cakes, Loyd Grossman sauces and Hartley’s jam, said that, although it was cautious about the consumer environment, it expected to make progress in 2011 and reiterated its target for generating £80m. The company said raw material inflation year-on-year is running at a percentage rate in the low teens. It added that it had secured price rises to cover the inflation it had seen up to the end of the first-quarter.

The company offloaded its Quorn business and canned grocery operation to tackle its huge debt mountain, which in February was less than £900m.