News briefs: Nestle results, Bel Group buy

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Processed cheese

This week, Nestle continues to profit from its nutrition focus and
the Bel Group looks to expand into Czech cheese production.

Nestle first quarter results ​ Nestle has posted a 9.8 per cent organic increase in first quarter sales amounting to 25.7bn CHF, a performance the company expects will keep it on track to meet its full-year growth expectations. Despite a slight decline within its bottled water operations, the group said the increase reflected improved sales volumes across its food and nutrition segments. In looking ahead, the company said it expected to maintain full-year profit growth in line with its 2007 performance with a predicted fall in raw material costs during the year expected to contribute. Group chief executive officer Paul Bulcke said the group's continued focus on becoming a nutrition and wellness company would be crucial to driving increased sales and profitability over the year. "On the basis of this high-quality growth, with a good balance between real internal growth and pricing, I am confident that we will achieve our 2008 targets,"​ he said. "[This is] organic growth approaching the 2007 level together with improved EBIT margins in constant currencies."Hard cheese spurs Bel Group buy ​ The Bel Group, which manufactures a number of cheese brands including The Laughing Cow, Boursin and Leerdammer has today announced the acquisition of the Czech Republic-based Jaromericka Group. The company says the purchase reflects its desire for expansion both in the Czech Republic and the wider Eastern European region. As part of the deal, Bel will acquire two manufacturing parts within the south of the country as well the Jaromericka Group's hard cheese production and brands. Group president Gérard Boivin said the purchase was a vital step in meeting the group's expansion plans. "This growth is predicated on developing strong and differentiated brand platforms and a selective acquisitions strategy in line with the company's business model,"​ he said. According to the company, the Czech cheese market is dominated by hard cheese, which accounts for 50 per cent of sales in the country. Processed cheese represents 20 per cent of Czech demand - the highest consumption per capita in Europe - and fresh cheese accounts for 9 per cent of sales, Bel says. Belk says the buy ensures it is present within all three of these segments, following a number of other purchases in the Czech Republic over the last few years. These include acquiring the Gervais brand from Danone last year and the Zeletava Syrarna company in 2007, the group said.

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