Premier Foods plc has booked an increase in first-quarter sales, boosted by the performance of its ‘Power Brands ‘.

For the three months to the end of March, group sales edged up 1.3% to GBP427m (US$689.6m), the Hovis maker reported today (25 April).

Premier said sales of its eight ‘power brands’, which also include Ambrosia , Bisto, and Mr Kipling improved by 3.7% during the quarter.

The firm added market share gains from its ‘power brands’ towards the end of the quarter resulted in a 2.4% increase in its total branded sales to GBP307m.

Sales of what Premier calls its “support” brands and of the own-label products it manufacturers were broadly flat in absolute terms in the quarter.

Premier, however, did not provide data on sales volumes or on margins.

The company, which has been working to turn around its business, said the consumer environment would be “less challenging” than 2011, and added it would continue to offload some businesses.

The company is focusing on its core, “power brands”, which also include Batchelors , Loyd Grossman, Oxo and Sharwood’s, and selling off non-core operations, which include brands like Hartley’s jam and Haywards pickles. Earlier this month, there was speculation that two private-equity firms were mulling merging Premier’s unwanted brands with UK food manufacturer Symington’s.

“These first-quarter results are in line with our expectations. The consumer environment continues to be very challenging and our focus for 2012 remains unchanged; to stabilise the business and invest in our recovery,” Premier CEO Michael Clarke. “We are driving sustainable sales and improving market shares by focusing investment behind our eight Power Brands, improving customer collaboration and reducing costs,” he added.

Premier’s share price increased 1.52% to 16.75 pence at 09:52 BST today.

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