The appreciation of the euro against both sterling and the US dollar took the shine off an otherwise excellent set of results for Irish bakery group IAWS in 2003.
Turnover for the year was up 3 per cent to €1.25 billion for the year ended 31 July 2003, but would have been 7 per cent higher at constant exchange rates, the company said. Pre-tax profits increased by 17 per cent to €82.2 million.
Total turnover in the food division grew by 9 per cent to €693.4 million - or 12 per cent on a constant basis - with the core food operations in Ireland and the UK (Cuisine de France, Delice de France) performing well and the group's North American businesses also showing good growth.
The year was marked by the acquisition of a 22 per cent stake in the Swiss Hiestand group, which IAWS said would provide a bridgehead for the group into mainland Europe, as well as opening up opportunities in Asia Pacific.
Hiestand is a gourmet bakery, which manufactures and distributes frozen bakery goods to retail and foodservice markets, and the company said there were excellent cross selling opportunities following the deal, as well as the opportunity to expand product ranges and the potential to increase spend per account through existing outlets.
In Ireland, sales were boosted by the integration of the operations of Cuisine de France, Delice de France and Pierre's, while the Shamrock Foods business had a very satisfactory year, benefiting from the ongoing growth of the Roma Foods business. Roma is the established market leader in the pasta and rice sectors and experiences strong brand loyalty from its consumers, IAWS said.
The development of Cuisine de France in the fast-growing convenience store sector helped sales in the UK, and further significant gains are expected in the next three to five years, the company said. At the same time, the premium positioning of Delice de France - which operates in restaurants, coffee houses and hotels - also led to strong sales growth.
In the United States and Canada, the company was boosted by a new production facility for its La Brea unit - giving it a base on the east coast (New Jersey) as well as the west (California) and the expansion of its joint venture supplying Tim Horton restaurants - one of the fastest-growing chains in North America.
Philip Lynch, IAWS managing director, said that the prospects for growth were excellent - provided that currency exchange rates improve, of course. "Ongoing momentum for the group's activities in Ireland and Britain, growth in the developing markets of North America and continental Europe and the continuing shift in consumer eating habits will ensure that the group is well positioned to achieve its objectives over the next three to five years," he said.