Rising sugar prices in Europe helped boost revenues and offset flat grocery sales for Associated British Foods in its third quarter.

Group sales climbed 13% in the 16 weeks ended 23 June, the Ryvita maker said today (12 July).

Sugar sales surged 54% in the period, reflecting the “strong” commercial environment in Europe and to a lesser degree Africa, the firm said.

Grocery sales in the period, however, were level with last year. ABF said the grocery market had remained “intensively competitive” for Allied Bakeries in particular, with promotional activity reducing margins. The firm’s Jordans and Ryvita brands, however, performed “strongly”, it said, with both brands responding well to effective advertising.

Earlier this month, ABF bought Elephant Atta and smaller related ethnic flour brands from Premier Foods for GBP34m (US$52.7m) in cash.

ABF said the group remains on track to deliver “substantial growth” in both adjusted operating profit and adjusted EPS for the full year.

City analysts believe full-year earnings from ABF’s grocery division could disappoint the market. Click here for more.