In a statement released today, UK prepared food producer Geest unveiled promising figures for the first half of 2000, which display growth in all areas since 1999. The food preparation company situated in Spalding reported its pre-tax profit up 14% to £16m, while sales grew by 17% to £304m. Before goodwill, operating profit rose 17% to £16.6m. This was great news for shareholders, who watched with glee as earnings per share rose by 12% to 16.8 pence. Geest's directors have also announced an interim dividend up from last year's 5.3 pence to 6 pence.The increases were expected, and said to reflect the continued growth of the company's fresh food division: over 300 products were released onto the market last year as either new or improved. "The demand for this type of food is one of the strongest in the food market", explained Geest chairman Ian Menzies-Gow. In the UK as a whole, this particular market for fresh prepared foods grew by 12% this year, and Geest responded to consumer interest by opening three new production facilities to increase output.The company spent £50m during this time, which Menzies-Gow says "reflects opportunities to invest in diverse markets." He added that Geest would become a leader in the supply market, and its spending was supported by a sound balance sheet and strong cash flow. Menzies-Gow has announced that Geest will comfortably meet next year's financial expectations. While some areas experienced deflationary pressure, for example frozen foods and coleslaw, the group's two acquisitions have performed well and sales of fresh prepared foods continue to rise.