UK dairy products maker Dairy Crest said today that profit before tax would be in line with market expectations for the year ending 31 March 2005.

“Despite an extremely competitive environment, this has been another solid year of trading for Dairy Crest and we expect results to be in line with expectations,” said CEO Drummond Hall. “Strong cash generation and investment in brands have continued to be important features of this performance.”

The spreads business has continued to make good progress and our key brands -Clover, Utterly Butterly, St Ivel Gold and Country Life – have all delivered sales growth year on year, Dairy Crest said. As expected volumes have been impacted by the retailer trend towards ‘every day low pricing’ which has reduced the opportunity for promotional activity.  Country Life, where Dairy Crest now has full ownership of the brand, has performed particularly well showing strong volume and value growth.

Market prices in cheese have held up on the back of lower industry stock levels. Dairy Crest recently won a major contract to supply Wal-Mart’s Asda supermarket chain with all of its own label cheddar and other British cheeses.  Cathedral City has reinforced its position as the UK’s leading branded cheddar, gaining market share after a strong performance over the year.

The Yoplait brands continued their strong performance and also increased market share. All the key brands – Petits Filous, Frubes, Wildlife, YOP and Weight Watchers – have achieved good year on year sales growth.  Yoplait Dairy Crest has decided to focus its future development on its branded products. As a result the own label yogurt and desserts production sites at Enfield and Yeovil will be closed by the summer.