Associated British Foods said this morning (7 July) that its grocery business made “some improvement” in the first nine months of the year. 

In a trading update for the three quarters to 18 June, ABF flagged improvements at its grocery unit. “The progress of our grocery businesses continued with some improvement in revenue growth in the third quarter,” the company said. 

However, the group also noted that margins at its Allied Bakeries business, which operates in the highly competitive UK bakery sector, continued to be squeezed. “Sales volumes at Allied Bakeries were well ahead of last year although margins remain under pressure.”

Elsewhere, ABF said the performance of the bakery and meat businesses at George Weston Foods in Australia “continued to improve”. 

On a group-wide basis, including ABF’s sugar and ingredients businesses as well as its discount fashion retail chain Primark, ABF said sales were 3% ahead of the same period last year at constant currency and 1% ahead at actual exchange rates. “This reflects stronger growth in the third quarter of 4% at constant currency and 7% at actual exchange rates,” the company noted. 

A stronger performance in sugar meant that ABF’s underlying operating profit performance came in “ahead of expectations”.

The company continued: “As a result, our outlook for this financial year has improved and we no longer expect a decline in adjusted earnings per share for the group for the full year.”