Walkers Shortbread has booked higher annual profits thanks to improved sales and efforts to boost its branded sales.

The UK baker posted net profit of just under GBP11m (US$17.8m) for 2012, up over two-thirds on a year earlier. Operating profit jumped 69.4% to GBP14.3m.

Turnover was up 3.8% at GBP123.7m, while Walkers Shortbread saw its cost of sales fall in 2012 compared to 2011.

The company said exports accounted for 41% of sales in 2012, the same level as in 2011.

Walkers Shortbread said its operating margin climbed from 7.2% to 11.8% after work on its branded business.

“Of particular relevance to our long-term profitability is the ongoing development of the Walkers brand in home and export markets, which has been significant in helping to raise our … margin,” the company said in its filing with Companies House. “This contrasts with the work we do in the highly competitive private-label sector, where the margins achieved are substantially lower.”

In July, just-food interviewed Steve Dawson, the head of Walkers Shortbread’s business in the US, its largest export market. Click here to read its plans for the US.