Germany-based food group Dr Oetker warned today (31 March) that its sales during the first two months of 2009 were “below expectations”.

The company, which owns brands including Ristorante pizza and Onken yoghurt, booked a 6.6% rise in annual revenues for 2008 thanks to bumper international sales.

However, Dr Oetker issued a more cautionary note on the company’s performance early this year. “Turnover in the first two months of 2009 was initially below expectations,” the group said.

Nevertheless, Dr Oetker said it expects its businesses abroad to continue to grow following a robust 2008.

Dr Oetker’s sales outside Germany jumped 11.9% and exceeded the EUR1bn (US$1.3bn) mark for the first time, the company said.

Overseas markets accounted for 62% of Dr Oetker’s revenues in 2008, driving group revenue to EUR1.69bn. The company highlighted its businesses in Brazil and Poland, which saw sales rise by over 15%. Dr Oetker’s domestic sales,meanwhile, dipped 0.9% to EUR650m.

Looking ahead to this year, Dr Oetker said it had test-launched its Ristorante pizza brand in the US.

Officials at Oetker could not be reached for immediate comment.