Dutch food group Koninklijke Wessanen has reported 2002 net sales of €2.8bn (US$3.02bn) compared to €4.0bn in 2001.

The company said the fall in sales was mainly due to the divestment of Golden Foods International and dairy operations in North America and Europe.

Net sales from ongoing activities, excluding Leerdammer which Wessanen sold at the beginning of December, were €2.58bn compared to €2.64bn in 2001. EBITA from ongoing activities before exceptional items for 2002 was down to €54.4m from €88.0m in 2001. Net income before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill from ordinary activities was €35.8m, compared to €78.5m in 2001.

Wessanen subsidiary Tree of Life Europe recorded EBITA up 21.9% to €23.9m, driven by sales increases of major brands and good contributions of recent UK acquisitions.

Wessanen’s Natural & Specialty Foods North America recorded a decline of 62.5% in 2002 EBITA to €20.8m. The company said profitability and sales were impacted by a difficult economic climate, pricing pressure and operational inefficiencies because of changes in customer base.

The EBITA of its cereals unit declined 22.7% to €9.2m, due to difficult market circumstances in the UK.

Wessanen’s Convenience Food Group EBITA rose 29.9% to €10.0m, as a result of integration efficiencies in Germany and strong sales of the Beckers brand.

Wessanen said 2002 had been a difficult year for the company, as it was unable to meet the expectations set forth in February and August of 2002. It said its largest subsidiary Tree of Life North America experienced a particularly challenging year, as the group struggled with a difficult market environment, intense pricing pressure, changes in the customer base and implementation problems of the ERP system in one of its regional distribution centres. Disappointing results at Tree of Life North America were partially offset by solid performances in other areas of the company, most notably Tree of Life Europe and the Convenience Food Group.

With the sale of Leerdammer Company in December 2002, Wessanen said it has completed the transition towards its wellness strategy. The year 2003 will be the first year to reflect results solely related to the wellness business.