European convenience food group Uniq today (28 September) revealed that it has begun to see the early results of its recovery plan. The group indicated that trading for the half-year to 30 September was in line with management expectations with sales up 2% overall.


“We remain confident of delivering a significant recovery based primarily on the UK performance year to date which we expect will gather momentum into the second half,” Uniq said in its pre-close trading update.


For the first five months of the year sales increased by 3% year-on-year in the UK. The company said that price increases and cost reduction moves have had a significant positive impact; however, the company noted that progress in the recovery at Minsterley is lagging. In response, Uniq has made further significant changes in this unit and the company said that it expects these to lift the second half performance.


In France, sales for the period dropped by 2% compared to last year; however, sales at the newly autonomous spreads business increased by 5%. The Marie Convenience business saw highly satisfactory growth in chilled foods that was offset by a continuing decline in frozen foods, the company reported. Under the leadership of new managing director Giampaolo Schiratti, the company is in the early phase of a comprehensive re-launch of the Marie Frozen business. This, coupled with increased investment that is expected to benefit both frozen and chilled divisions, is expected to address the decline in sales


In Northern Europe, sales were up 4% over last year’s results. The company said that it performed well in Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, but warned that market conditions in Germany continued to prove challenging.


On 6 June 2006, Uniq announced that it was exploring the divestment of its French spreads and Belgian salads businesses. The company said that the sale process is well underway, adding that updates will be issued when appropriate.


Commenting on the developments, Geoff Eaton, chief executive of Uniq, said: “Twelve months into our turnaround programme, I am pleased with overall progress in our recovery initiatives in the UK and Northern Europe. The recent changes at Minsterley are showing early promise, but the German salads market remains challenging. In France the Marie Convenience business is getting sharper management focus to improve its long-term competitiveness as we separate out the profitable spreads business. We are confident the divestment programme will transform our balance sheet and generate cash to support our recovery.”