Belgian fresh food group Ter Beke saw its profits dive 22.3% for the fourth quarter despite an increase in turnover.

For the fourth quarter, operating income dropped to EUR7.9m (US$10.1m) from EUR10.2m in the same period for the previous year.

Turnover in the fourth quarter increased 7.2% to EUR393.2m boosted by the company's acquisition of Berkhout last year, but was negatively impacted by the economic crisis, the company said, particularly in Spain and the UK where Christmas sales were "disappointing".

EBITDA increased by 2% to EUR29.9m as a result of the full year consolidation of the results of Berkhout Verssnijlijn but primarily as a result of a better product mix, improved efficiency in production and supply chain activities and a reduction of the organisation cost throughout the group.

Turnover in the company's processed meats division TerBeke-Pluma increased 11.1%, mainly as a result of the September 2007 acquisition and continued growth in pre-packed processed meats, the company said.

"In 2009, the group will continue to work on improving the profitability of its activities, both in the processed meats division TerBeke-Pluma and in the ready meals division FreshMeals. Ter Beke will also continue to invest in its Come a Casa brand and will continue to build a relationship of trust with its customers and the consumer," the company said in a statement.