UK food company Geest has said it is confident of the good growth prospects of the fresh prepared foods sector, despite a challenging trading environment.

Chairman Sir John Banham said the group’s UK prepared foods business continues to grow, like-for-like, at 5-6% despite the increasing pace of price competition and the differing performances of our retail customers.

“In the last few weeks, we have won some significant pieces of business, including a new customer for our pasta facility at Barton, and these gains should accelerate sales growth in the second half of the year,” Banham said.

Geest’s Milton Keynes business unit suffered a fire in February, but the company said the unit has since regained 80% of its production level and the impact of the fire of profits is covered by insurance.

Geest said it was on target to achieve full-year cost savings necessary to offset the effect of raw material inflation experienced late in 2003.

The group’s board said it continued to be confident in the future growth prospects of the fresh prepared foods sector, underpinned by consumer demand for fresh, convenient foods of high quality.