Ireland-based food group Greencore today (13 August) claimed consumer sentiment in the UK was improving as it revealed sales had been rising across the Irish Sea.

Greencore, which also published a more upbeat outlook for annual profits, said its convenience foods business has continued to grow after an upswing in the second quarter of its fiscal year.

In the four months to 24 July, sales from Greencore’s continuing convenience businesses was up 2.5% on a constant-currency basis to EUR278.1m (US$396.8m).

UK convenience sales had risen by 1.8%, with demand for in food-to-go, prepared meals and ambient cooking sauces offsetting falling sales of cakes and desserts.

“The UK environment remains challenging although there has been a slight improvement in consumer sentiment in recent months,” Greencore said. “Volumes in our UK chilled foods portfolio increased by 4.4% in the four months to July over the comparable period in the previous year.”

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The company added: “Value remains a key consumer theme and the group’s private-label offering is delivering well in meeting this need.”

In the US, where Greencore is building a food-to-go and chilled food business, the company said underlying sales were up 43% on the year.

However, Greencore said its businesses in parts of Europe were suffering. “Continental European sales were behind by 9%, reflecting a weaker consumer environment in The Netherlands.”

In May, when Greencore published its half-year results, chief executive Patrick Coveney said the business was on-track to post operating profit “in line” with the previous year on a constant-currency basis.

Today, the company said it expects annual profits to be “modestly ahead” on the year.

Shares in Greencore were up 1.4% at EUR1.46 at 10:30 BST this morning.