Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut today (6 November) posted a jump in full-year sales, which drove a 5.3% increase in operating profit.

Operating profit for fiscal 2007-8 increased to CHF341.1m (US$291.2m) as growth accelerated in the second half, Barry Callebaut revealed this morning.

Revenues were up 17.3% to CHF4.8bn, boosted by price increases, while sales volumes rose 10.1%, the company said.

Including discontinued operations, net profit climbed 65.6% to CHF205.5m.

However, stripping out the impact of discontinued businesses - including the sale of US sugar confectionery maker Brach's - profit from continuing operations rose just 1% to CHF209.1m. Barry Callebaut said that a loss on the sale of financial assets and higher financial expenses had a negative impact on net profit.

CEO Patrick De Maeseneire said that sales and profit growth reflected the "robust" nature of Barry Callebaut's business model.

"Thanks to our robust business model and our ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions, we were able to offset record-high raw material costs and accelerate our operating profit growth in the second semester," he said. 

"Additionally, we continued to grow more than three times as fast as the global chocolate market. These achievements, especially in the face of a challenging market environment, underline the effectiveness of our growth strategy."

Looking to the year ahead, De Maeseneire was bullish about the company's prospects in spite of the global economic downturn.
"Chocolate is a defensive industry and consumption has proven resilient in previous economic downturns. Indeed, we continued to see good growth in the first two months of the current fiscal year," he said.

De Maeseneire said that the company's global presence, long-term supply contracts, a diversified product offering and solid financial structure would allow it to weather the current global economic crisis.