Full year profits down at dairy firm behind Pilgrims Choice and Kerrygold

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Full year revenue is up by 10 per cent at cheese-packing firm Ornua Foods UK – but pre-tax profits have taken a tumble.

The company behind the Pilgrims Choice and Kerrygold dairy brands has revealed that, for 2019, revenue increased by 10 per cent to £354 million, but pre-tax profits fell to £4.1 million from £6.8 million in 2018.

The firm – which employs around 650 people in Leek, Staffordshire – has attributed the decrease in profits to a ‘business transformation programme’ which saw it invest in new cheese-cutting and packing technology and a significant systems upgrade.

Bosses at the company say the programme will be ‘instrumental’ in driving future efficiencies and economies of scale for the business and added that the results reflect the firm’s commitment to ‘delivering stability in what continues to be a highly challenging and volatile market environment.’

Bill Hunter, managing director of Ornua Foods UK, said: “The 2019 financial results reflect a strong underlying performance in our core business.

“This was driven by a better customer mix, branded sales and an ongoing focus on rigorous cost control and efficiencies. While the full year effect of several new business wins secured in 2019 and the major investment made during the year in a business transformation programme will be reflected in future years.

“Looking forward, we believe that our ongoing investment in both our state-of-the-art packing facility in Leek and our Pilgrims Choice and Kerrygold brands will continue to give the company a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Ornua – formerly Adams Foods – supplies over 40 per cent of the hard cheese sold in UK retailers.

It operates across two sites in Sunnyhills Road, Leek; Ornua Foods UK and Ornua Nutrition Ingredients.

It has been operating in the Staffordshire Moorlands since 1922 where it packs cheese for some of the country’s biggest supermarkets – such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s Morrisons and Iceland.

Post the year end, and during Covid-19, Ornua says its number on priority has been to ensure it is doing everything it can to protect the health and wellbeing of its staff and ensuring the business is as resilient as possible.

It added that its biggest challenge has been to keep its supply chain operating at a time when the consumer demand for cheese and butter is particularly strong.

Mr Hunter added: “In the light of Covid-19 our key focus has been to do everything we can to ensure the health and wellbeing of our staff.

“At the same time, we have taken steps to build as much resilience as possible into our business operations and supply chain.

“To date, demand for our core retail cheese and butter lines has been strong. I’m also pleased to be able to report that, thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff, allied with the close collaboration and support of our customers and supply partners, we have been able to maintain our service and quality levels.”


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