Sales at convenience foods company Northern Foods rose by approximately 3.4% in the 26 weeks ended 1 October, according to a trading update released by the company this (Monday) morning.

Interim results for the period will be released on 15 November, the company said.

Overall, first half operating margins are expected to be broadly maintained, it said. A challenging trading environment and significant inflation in input costs have offset the gains from the Group’s procurement and efficiency programmes.

Performance across our ambient and frozen businesses remains robust, it said. Whilst the chilled division is now operating as a unified business and is beginning to show progress, the process of improving profitability to an acceptable level will take time to achieve.

“As has been well documented, the trading environment remains tough and we will need to recover further input cost inflation in the second half year, particularly in utilities,” said Pat O’Driscoll, chief executive of Northern Foods. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the good progress we are making to restructure and refocus the business towards our goals.