Robert Wiseman Dairies, the UK milk group, has reported solid gains for the year to 29 March 2003, boosted by investments in product quality and service levels.
The company said that volumes were up 11.7 per cent to 1.03 billion litres, in turn pushing up turnover by 5.4 per cent to £391 million (€543.8m). The difference in the increase was due to the fact that milk prices have fallen steadily since the previous year.
Operating profit for the year was up 33.3 per cent to £25.1 million, helped by a major improvement in the performance of the company's Droitwich Spa dairy, into which the company has invested substantial sums. Pre-tax profits were up 37.9 per cent to £22.8 million.
Chairman Alan Wiseman said: "We are delighted with our overall volume growth during the year and we have benefited from increased business with Safeway, Tesco and Sainsbury's. As a result of this new business, over 63 per cent of our total sales by volume is now in England and Wales. We have also secured an increased store allocation with Somerfield, commencing June 2003, and increased pot cream orders from Safeway and Iceland."
Wiseman said that these new contracts would help the company meet its aim of increasing volumes further in 2003.
But these new contracts have also been a challenge for the company's distribution arm, which has had to cope with a significant increase in volumes. The company invested some £7 million on its fleet last year, including replacements for existing vehicles, during the year, while plans are underway to construct a new depot in the north east of England to help meet increased demand in that part of the country.
Wiseman said that the company had also increased the price paid to its milk suppliers during the year by two pence per litre. "One of our main concerns is our overall competitiveness, as some of the other major processors currently have access to milk at a lower base raw material cost than ourselves," he added, stressing that the company would nonetheless stick to its pricing structure, for now.
Wiseman concluded: "We are pleased with the improving performance of the group. Our recent investment programme has driven our performance, enabling us to deliver a high quality product and improve service levels to our customers. We are confident this trend can continue on the back of the recent increased contracts with the major supermarkets. We have put in place the foundations for our continued success and are optimistic about our future prospects."