Swiss baker Aryzta said today (28 September) that revenue growth is difficult to predict after it posted a drop in underlying group sales for the last 12 months.

Owen Killian, Aryzta CEO, told analysts that the company's main concern for its food business was revenue growth.

"Essentially, we think we have a good business model, we think we can control our cost base and therefore our margin is pretty well within our control and we've done a good job on that in the current year," Killian said. "Revenue growth is difficult to predict, we prefer not to give guidance."

He added: "As far as our long-term business model is concerned, this has been the pattern by which we generated revenue growth over the last ten years in these businesses. Consumers are spending less money therefore we are delivering less profit to each outlet."

Analysts have forecast that Aryzta will report earnings per share of 224.6 cents for the company's fiscal 2010/11 year. In the year to 31 July, Aryzta posted EPS of 234.7 cents.

Reported turnover rose 2.5% to EUR3.21bn (US$4.69) over the last 12 months but underlying group sales fell 3%. Net profit, however, jumped 18% to reach EUR149.3m.

A spokesperson for Aryzta told just-food that the company's UK and Ireland businesses had most affected the group's underlying revenues

Killian told analysts today that those markets were still "pretty bleak" environments.

"I think we have to call it what it is. It'd like to say it's a lot better but it's not. It's a bleak environment. Consumers are still extremely concerned. The reality is, there's less cash in consumers pockets, either because their wages are less, there's less bonuses or there's less employment. Consumers remain very apprehensive at this time, maybe even more so than they were a year ago."

Killian told analysts that, although underlying growth was "difficult", Aryzta would continue to invest in markets where there was large population.

"In the UK, as a result of our investment in manufacturing, we do have an opportunity to penetrate other channels and we're working on the assumption that we're going to be able to continue to penetrate other channels because we're now a substantial manufacturer in this market place.

He added: "In the French market, we made a small acquisition this year that helps take us into the gastronomy market, we hope this will leverage our enormous product development capability and help us to extend into other channels.

"The same in Germany, there are many channels that we haven't penetrated and we are continuing to invest in sales people. We think that an opportunity for us to continue growing revenues in other channels."