Sales at convenience food company Northern Foods rose by 3.2% in its first quarter to 2 July 2005, chairman Peter Blackburn told its Annual General Meeting today (Thursday).

"Trading in the first quarter was in line with our expectations," he said. The figure, which is for underlying sales, excluding the impact of currency, acquisitions and divestments, compares with a 1.4% rise in the same period last year.

"We continue to operate in very competitive market conditions," he said.  "As indicated in June, we are focusing our efforts in two key areas: driving sales growth and reducing costs in the supply chain, to ensure that we can perform successfully in this environment."

Blackburn is stepping down today as chairman, to be replaced by Tony Hobson, he deputy for the past three years. "We have worked very closely together during this period on the transformation of the business, and I have every confidence in the ability of Tony, Pat O'Driscoll and the management team to achieve our plans and ambitions for Northern Foods, our customers, shareholders and employees," he said.