UK-based chilled convenience food group Uniq has reported a narrower interim loss but said sales slid amid a lack of focus on customer needs in the UK.

For the 26 weeks to 1 October the company posted a loss before tax of £1.5m (US$2.6m), compared to a loss of £9.5m a year earlier. Revenues were £407.8m, compared to £424.4m in the year-ago period.

Uniq said the group result had deteriorated significantly compared with the first half of last year due to a loss of focus in the UK on customer needs and mounting losses at Minsterley, a poor summer and increased market pressure in Northern Europe, and the phasing of new product initiatives in Southern Europe.
“Since my appointment in August, we have taken decisive action to improve the customer focus, pace and profitability of the business. Although the scale of the changes in the UK are such that we cannot be certain about the timing of recovery, we remain confident of achieving a significant improvement in profitability in the second half of this year. We anticipate that the improvement coupled with further planned management action will also provide good momentum into the next financial year,” said chief executive Geoff Eaton.

Eaton said his main priority over the next six months is to bring about an improvement in the profitability of the UK business.

“I have already taken decisive action to change both the senior management of this division, and the way we operate and interact with our customers,” he said.

“I am also working closely with our Northern European management to strengthen our market focus, where in the first half of this year we saw the combined effect of increasing competitor activity and a poor summer reducing the demand for our products, which prevented us from achieving year-on-year growth in this market.

“Our Southern European business has continued to perform in line with our expectations, and I am encouraged by the strength and further potential of our St-Hubert and Marie brands,” Eaton added.