The average company within the UK food and drink sector witnessed sales of £147.2m (US$235.4m) in 2001, having risen steadily from £130.7m in 1999, according to a new report.

The report, which is entitled 'UKplc - A Financial Analysis of Corporate Britain' and published by The Prospect Shop, found that pre-tax profits also grew and at a slightly faster rate than sales.

Using information taken from The Prospect Shop's business database of over 1.4 million companies within the UK, the report reveals that total assets for the food and drink sector increased as well, but the average number of employees decreased - perhaps a sign of continuing automation and further technological advances. Overall, however, the food and drink sector has witnessed a reasonably stable financial period, although rising debt levels might need addressing in the near future.

The food and drink sector (which incorporates eight separate food and drink industries - listed in the table below) saw its pre-tax profit margin rise from 7.6% in 1999 to 8.8% in 2000, only then to fall back down to its 1999 level of 7.6% in 2001.

Average asset utilisation recorded a minimum increase with the constituent industries reporting a mixture of rises and declines. The total debt to net worth ratio for the sector as a whole jumped from 174.4% in 1999 to 239.4% in 2001.The 'other food manufacturing' industry recorded the lowest debt levels of 33.5% in 2001; alcoholic beverages recorded the highest with 262.2%.

Key Food and Drink Ratios
Industry
Pre-tax Profit
Margin
Asset
Utilisation
Total
Debt/Net Worth
Compound
Sales Growth
%2001
% 2001
%2001
% 1999 - 2001
Animal Feed
2.1
2.02
100.2
11.0
Bakeries
6.3
1.07
64.4
6.1
Fruit & Vegetables
4.1
1.71
74.1
2.3
Alcoholic Beverages
9.9
0.67
262.2
5.1
Beverages & Tobacco
8.8
1.31
-398.1
24.6
Dairy Products
3.0
1.96
163.0
15.6
Meat & Fish
2.7
1.27
145.7
8.2
Other Food Manufacturing
7.1
1.17
33.5
3.1
Sector Average
7.6
1.07
239.4
12.6
Source: UKplc -A Financial Analysis of Corporate Britain