A record number of new product launches in the first four months of the current fiscal year have helped the UK's Inter Link Foods get off to an excellent start.
In a trading statement released to coincide with the company's AGM yesterday, Inter Link's chairman Jeremy Hamer said that sales in the four-month period were up 26 per cent on the same period a year earlier, and that turnover for the year as a whole was likely to be well ahead of 2003.
The group's manufacturing businesses posted like-for-like sales up 7.1 per cent in the period, while the marketing and distribution business, Cakes for the Connoisseur, was 2 per cent ahead of 2003. The company's most recent acquisition, Soreen, the malt loaf producer, registered a 4.5 per cent increase in like-for-like sales.
Inter Link manufactures and sells own label, branded and licensed cakes and pastry products to the major UK multiples and is involved in the distribution of cakes and confectionery to independent retailers and the food service sector.
It has fingers in a broad number of pies, so to speak. At its Crossfield Foods subsidiary, it makes sponges, fruit pies and celebration cakes while at the Shadsworth Bakery it produces low fat loaf cakes and cherry bakewell tarts. Chocolate mini rolls and swiss rolls are made at the Lisa Bakery.
While Soreen, the UK's leading malt oaf brand, is probably its most high profile acquisition to date, Inter Link has been busy snapping up a number of cake makers in recent years.
In 2001 it added small cake maker Hepworth & Whittles (which trades as Newton House Bakery), Cakes for the Connoisseur, The Creative Cake Company, which manufactures celebration cakes with licensed characters such as Bob the Builder, Spiderman and Harry Potter, and William Lusty, which sells a range of layer and fruit cakes.
These acquisitions were the main reason behind a 12 per cent increase in turnover to £51.4 million (€74.7m) for the year to 30 April, Inter Link announced earlier this year.
But innovation has also played a big part - as the number of new product launches in the first four months clearly shows - and Inter Link has been quick to expand into growth areas of the market such as snacking (with a bite-size version of Soreen, for example) or speciality cakes. Expect to see more of the same in the next eight months.