UK meat processor Hilton Food Group has said its first-half performance was “in line” with expectations, as softness in some markets was offset by faster growth elsewhere.

In a trading statement released this morning (18 July), Hilton said its sales performance was driven by new product lines, which contributed to growth against a backdrop of “challenging conditions”.

In the UK and Ireland, the group’s performance was hit by “industry issues”, particularly in the first-quarter, and constrained consumer spending. This softness was offset by gains in Sweden and Denmark. Hilton’s business in Central Europe continued to perform “in line”, the group added.

The company added that the development of its partnership with Woolworths, which will open up the Australian market, was progressing to plan.

According to Panmure Gordon analyst Graham Jones, who maintains a “buy” recommendation on Hilton stock, modest start-up costs associated with this business in the first-half are expected to be offset by a second-half contribution to the bottom line.

“We expect modest start-up losses at the Australian JV to hold EPS progress back in H1, but the development work at Bunbury remains on schedule and as such we expect a H2 contribution from Australia, and maintain our full-year forecast of 4.6% EPS growth.”

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Hilton is scheduled to report its full first-half numbers on 10 September.

For just-food’s commentary on Hilton’s Australian expansion, which was announced in January, click here