UK private-label food group Uniq has booked an increased in fourth-quarter sales boosted by growth in the firm’s food-to-go business and despite the recent poor weather.

Group sales were up 3.1% in the quarter, while sales for the year as a whole grew 6.8% to GBP312m (US$488m). Food-to-go sales climbed 8.3% in the quarter, driven by innovation and range development in Uniq’s sandwiches business, the firm said today (12 January).

Full-year food-to-go sales reached GBP157m, a 13% increase on last year.

Overall dessert sales for the quarter, however, were down 1.7%. The firm said its summer innovation programme was held back by “disruption to core sales” caused by a price increase flagged up in its third-quarter update, lower Cadbury sales due to fewer promotions and the loss of cottage cheese volume.

Uniq said it will now stop producing cottage cheese in 2011 and concentrate on specialist desserts. Underlying desserts sales, which excluded cottage cheese, grew by 6% in the quarter and by 5.1% for the year as a whole.

Chief executive Geoff Eaton said: “Our overall performance for 2010 is broadly in line with our expectations, reflecting a stronger than expected performance in Food to Go and continuing losses in desserts. These results are a credit to the management team and have facilitated further progress towards resolving the legacy pension situation.”

In April, the company announced plans to pay off its pensions deficit, which then stood at GBP436m. However, the proposals were rejected by the country’s pensions regulator in July, prompting Uniq to draw up fresh proposals, which involve its pension trustees taking 90% of the business in a “deficit for equity swap”.

The firm said today that discussions with the pensions regulator, the Pension Protection Fund and the trustee of the main Uniq pensions scheme have yet to be concluded.

Uniq shares dropped 5.9% to GBP7.10 at 10.26am BST today.

Click here to view the full earnings release.