UK food maker Northern Foods has reported a profit of £14.4m (US$25.0m) for the first half, compared to a loss of £7.9m a year earlier.

For the 26 weeks ended 1 October 2005, the company reported continuing sales of £700.0m, compared to £680.7m a year earlier; underlying sales growth was 3.4%.

Northern Foods said it was a satisfactory profit performance in a difficult trading environment. Profit from continuing operations was up 7.0% to £38.4m, while profit before tax was up 5.8% to £25.7m.

The company said it had achieved market share gains in key brands such as Goodfella’s, Fox’s and Pork Farms, and had won significant new business with major retailers.

“Our programme for the transformation of Northern Foods is well underway. We have made encouraging progress in the last 12 months,” said chief executive Pat O’Driscoll.

The trading environment remains difficult. Against a background of rising input costs, particularly for energy, we expect the recent period of price deflation to end. We are negotiating with our retail customers to recover input cost inflation. With our GET FIT programme continuing to drive efficiencies, we expect progressively to improve our operating margin over the next 18 months,” O’Driscoll added.