Switzerland's Emmi group has reported a 10 per cent increase in sales for 2002 to SF1.4 billion (€0.9bn) boosted mainly by a number of significant acquisitions in the cheese segment.
The growth in 2002 was driven by the acquisition of the SDF cheese business on 1 October 2002 and the fondue company Zingg acquired at the start of the year. Internal growth in both the chilled and dairy product divisions was able to compensate for the decline in cheese exports, Emmi said, adding that growth in the two divisions was 3 and 4 per cent respectively thanks to innovations and gains in market share.
As well as the acquisitions, 2002's results were boosted by a number of new product ranges, such wellness products like aloe vera yoghurt launched in Germany. There was also the launch of spicy semi-hard cheese called Fuego and the expansion of the fat-reduced range under the in-house brands of Emmi's customers Coop and Migros, as well as its own My Life brand.
But the Lucerne-based group also announced that profits were down 33 per cent to SF19.8 million as a result of a number of factors, including provisions for losses on the butter export business, and write-offs on excess Emmentaler stocks. The strength of the Swiss franc and the trend by German consumers to go back to eating meat instead of cheese after the BSE crisis in the preceding year also took their toll.
On the whole, though, the Swiss group was happy with its performance in 2002, and said that it had carried this through into the current year as well. The integration of the Bern-Ostermundigen dairy which took place at the start of the year is proceeding to plan and should be completed by the middle of the year, the company said, while the integration of the cheese business is largely complete.
These measures are expected to lift sales by 35 per cent to SF1.9 billion, and EBITDA to SF126 million.
Emmi's acquisition strategy is based on the aim of becoming the company of reference for Swiss cheese, especially in international markets. This year will see the company continue the groundwork for the creation of a new Swiss fondue company that will be launched in 2004 via the merger of its subsidiaries Gerberkäse, Tiger Käse and Zingg.
While the company's focus will continue to be on cheese, the SDF acquisition also gave Emmi the rights to the popular Toni brand, which has strengthened its position in the market for other dairy products such yoghurts.