UK confectioner Thorntons has included North America in its target markets overseas after reviewing international opportunities for the business.

In its full-year earnings update today (12 September), Thorntons said it had identified three regions of focus: Australia, the Middle East and Africa.

However, the confectioner said it was also eyeing North America.  “The US is in our focus, it’s clearly a very big market,” chief executive Jonathan Hart told journalists. “It’s a little early to say if that will include Canada also.”

Of the four markets, Hart said: “The degree into which these will blossom will depend on the response we have had from the visits we’ve made in those markets. We’ll be flexible about the approach and we’ll be pragmatic about how we shape our approaches. We will take a number of markets, we’ll walk before we run and fundamentally run the business through commercial distribution, we won’t be moving into retail or franchise and we’ll make money as we go and not invest money in marketing etc. It will be a steady as you go strategy.”

Hart was more coy, however, on details of Thorntons’ supply deal with South African retailer Massmart, confirmed in recent days.

“We don’t talk about any individual relationship we have with any supplier,” he told just-food. “What we have announced today is the result of our international strategy review which will see us focus on a few core markets in the near term … fundamentally markets that are English speaking or with ex-pat communities and markets that we have some degree of existing business therein.”

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The UK confectioner this morning saw its share price rise, despite lower full-year profits as an improved second-half performance led to better-than-expected pre-tax earnings.

Thorntons said its full-year performance was affected by “weak consumer demand caused by a decline in discretionary income, combined with structural problems in many of the UK’s high streets”.