Bonduelle , the French canned and frozen food group, today (4 August) booked a dip in annual sales – but said underlying sales exceeded its expectations.

The company reported total annual sales of EUR1.96bn (US$2.1bn) for 2015-16, 0.7% down on the EUR1.98bn reported in the previous financial year.

At constant exchange rates, sales were up 2.4%. Bonduelle said the growth exceeded its initial expectations of a 2% increase.

Due to exchange rates, sales outside Europe dipped to EUR692.8m compared to EUR700.6m previously. However, at constant rates and excluding M&A, Bonduelle said sales increased 8.2%.

In Russia, despite declining markets, the group reported a positive turnover growth over this financial year “thanks to an appropriate pricing and promotional policy, while maintaining its products accessibility and market shares”.

To “take account of the size of the commercial and agro-industrial activities” in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and “the maturity and weight of this area”, Bonduelle said all those activities were brought together on 1 July under a dedicated business unit: Bonduelle Eurasian Markets, directly represented on the group’s executive committee.

Meanwhile, Bonduelle said it continued to consolidate its positions in Canada and the US, “notably in Canada and for the sales to the US coming from the Canadian plants thanks to the competitiveness of the American/Canadian dollar parity”.

In Brazil, the group said it had successfully repositioned its Bonduelle-branded canned range as a locally-produced premium range “moving from volume growth to a more differentiated and added value offer”.

Sales in Europe were EUR1.27bn after being flat at EUR1.28bn in the last financial year. Bonduelle said the “virtual stability” did see “remarkable results recorded for the retail sales of branded products (Bonduelle and Cassegrain) in canned, frozen, fresh processed and in food service, with the return of growth in both volume and value for the frozen operating segment, giving rise to market share gains”.

However, the group said the sales growth of branded products in Europe was offset by the lower sales volumes and price declines observed in the canned operating segment for private labels, a “segment where, given the current market conditions, the group has decided to restrict its activities”.

Bonduelle said it closed its Russy-Bemont plant in France in June, in line with plans announced at the company’s central works council last January to restructure its canned industrial facilities in the north of the country. A non-recurring charge estimated at EUR9.5m will be recorded in the financial statements in relation to the move, the group said.

In addition, Bonduelle said it has created a “prospective and development” unit, to go “beyond the group’s existing temporal and geographical horizons”, bringing together long-term R&D activities, numerical technologies, international sourcing and managing the group’s geographical expansion outside the existing business units.

Bonduelle said it also aims to build relationships “with innovative companies sharing the group’s strategic ambition to be the world reference in ‘well-living’ through vegetable products”.

The company said: “In an ever chaotic climate, shaped by the lack of any upturn in consumption and price war in Europe, economic crisis in Russia and Brazil, high currency fluctuations, the Bonduelle Group reported another fiscal year of growth on a like for like basis.”

The group said: “This performance, higher than the announced objective at the beginning of the fiscal year, underlines the resilience and efficiency of the group’s strategy regarding diversification both in terms of technology (canned, frozen, fresh processed) and in terms of geography (2/3 Europe, 1/3 non-Europe), by brands (national and distributors’ private labels) or even by distribution channel (retail, food service, industrial sales).”

Bonduelle is to report its full annual results in October.