UK chocolate maker Thorntons is planning a slew of product launches to lessen its dependence on seasonal sales, its chief executive told just-food today (9 September).

Mike Davies said he wants Thorntons to push on with reducing its reliance on the three months around Christmas, which accounts for 40% of the company's sales - and which proved tough for the group in 2008 as the downturn took hold.

Earlier today, Thorntons booked rising annual sales thanks in part to product development and Davies revealed the company would press ahead with more launches in the next 12 months.

"Innovation is one of the cornerstones of the strategy to get Thorntons back on its feet three years ago. We want to put the customer first," Davies said.

Next month, Thorntons plans to launch extensions to its Continental range based on recipes from Paris and Milan, a boxed line called Metropolitan aimed at younger consumers, as well as a praline line dubbed Melts for females to share with their friends.

"You've got to keep surprising customers to keep them coming back again to see what's new this week," Davies said.

Despite rising sales, Thorntons reported a 4.5% fall in annual pre-tax profits for the 12 months to 27 June but Davies insisted the company was making progress with earnings and pointed to the fall in the company's traditional losses during the second half of its fiscal year.

"We've actually delivered 6.1% [net sales] growth and we've again reduced the losses that Thorntons has historically made in the second half. We're making steady, continuous progress in terms of reducing those losses. We had that difficult trading period just before Christmas. That's behind us now and we're back on track.

Shares in Thorntons were up 16.8% at the close of trading today, reaching 108p.