Published: 09:12, 14 May 2019
| Updated: 09:13, 14 May 2019
One of the nation's biggest food manufacturers - with a major production facility in the county - has reported a £42.7million loss in its financial results for the year ending March 30, 2019.
Premier Foods, which operates the Batchelors factory in Ashford, had some sweet spots in the figures - with its Mr Kipling brand seeing growth of 12% following a relaunch in the UK - but it was hit by pensions and "operational challenges" as well as a 12.5% dip in international sales.
The year has been challenging for the firm, which saw its CEO Gavin Darby step down in January and confirmation it intended to sell off its Ambrosia custard brand.
Overall, revenues were up 0.6% over the year, with quarter four revenues up 3.1%.
It delivered a trading profit of £128.5m - up 4.5%.
The report saw strong performances from its Ambrosia, Batchelors, Sharwood's and Soba ranges.
In addition, it intends to launch a new vegan range - Plantastic.
Alastair Murray, acting chief executive officer, said: "Premier Foods has delivered consistent progress over the last two years, growing revenue, trading profit, adjusted earnings and reducing net debt.
"In the last year, Mr Kipling, our largest brand, grew 12% following its successful brand relaunch in the UK and in addition Ambrosia, Batchelors, Sharwood's and Soba also displayed healthy growth. While we saw a decline in international revenue and experienced significant operational challenges with the final phase of our logistics transformation programme, our improved structural resilience still resulted in us growing trading profit by 4.5%.
"This year we plan to increase investment in both capital projects and consumer marketing, with up to five of our biggest brands expected to benefit from TV advertising.
"We have plans to launch an exciting new brand, Plantastic, using plant- based ingredients, in response to current consumer trends and we expect our international business to return to double digit growth in the coming year.
"While the first half of the financial year 2019/20 is expected to be slower than last year, reflecting the timing of marketing investment, we expect to make further progress over the next 12 months thanks to our continuing pipeline of new product innovation and strong customer relationships.
"We remain focused on reducing our levels of net debt and expect to deliver a similar level of debt pay-down in the coming year."