Sales were up by 10.1 per cent to SF331.9 million, driven by good performances in all of the company's main markets, while net profits grew by 57.8 per cent to SF18.3 million.
Most of the sales growth came in the company's main markets of Switzerland and Germany, and driven by better than expected performances from bread loaves and Danish pastries.
In Switzerland, sales were ahead 16.3 per cent of the previous year, with increases in all three of the division's main markets: convenience stores/service stations, bakery shops in food stores and classic gastronomy. In Germany, growth was strongest in convenience stores/service stations, bakery shops in food stores and canteens and catering, and revenues there rose by 5.9 per cent in local currency terms.
In Poland, the frozen and fresh bakery goods business, which serves the wider baked goods industry, saw its sales grow by nearly 6 per cent in 2003, despite difficult economic circumstances. Six retail outlets were closed in order to focus on the business-to-business market, and including the impact of these closures, overall sales were flat.
In Japan, sales rose by 4.3 per cent, again helped by strong convenience store sales. Despite the fact that the tourism and restaurant trades were hard-hit by the SARS epidemic, the units in Singapore and Malaysia succeeded in increasing sales by over 10 per cent.
In Austria, since the decision in 2002 to stop production of fresh baked goods, the focus on frozen bakery products has paid dividends, with organic growth of 35 per cent in 2003.
The Swiss, German, Austrian, Singapore and Malaysian businesses were the ones which benefited most from the restructuring efforts, in particular improvements in procurement, production, distribution & logistics and sales.
Results in 2004 should benefit from the partnership with IAWS, the Irish company which took a 22 per cent stake in Hiestand back in July, as well as that of Germany's Back & Friends in February 2004. Back & Friends alone is expected to contribute additional sales growth of some €20 million in 2004.
The company's first quarter figures certainly suggest that the momentum of 2003 has been carried forward into the current year. Sales reached SF89.3 million, an 18 per cent rise on the previous year, with organic growth of 9 per cent. Hiestand said it expected to see full year sales growth of 18 per cent.