Premier Foods today (12 May) posted a 3% increase in sales and said its expectations for the full year remain unchanged.

The UK company, which makes a range of foods including Hovis bread and Bisto gravy, said sales in the first four months of the year were 3% above the same period in 2008.

Excluding sales of bulk flour, group sales were up 6% in the first four months primarily due to price rises achieved during 2008.

Robert Schofield, chief executive, said: “We are pleased by the solid start that the group has made in 2009. We have seen continued strong sales growth by our grocery division during the first four months of the year. This was driven mainly by pricing achieved during 2008 despite sales volume growth being held back during the period by an element of destocking by some retailers.”

Sales in Premier’s baking business were 6% ahead of the same period last year with strong branded sales growth partly offset by lower volumes of own-label bread.

Bulk flour sales were primarily reduced by the company’s exit from a low margin flour contract during 2008. Sales for the division as a whole were 4% lower than the same period last year.

Despite this, Schofield said its biggest brand Hovis has continued to make “excellent progress” following its relaunch last year and is now the “clear number two in the wrapped bread market” with a market share of over 25%. Further activity and innovation is planned on Hovis during the remainder of 2009.

Sales in the company’s grocery division were 6% ahead of the same period in 2008.