Arla delivered the cooperative’s highest performance price in three years, improved profitability and continued to deliver growth for strategic brands in both the European and International zones. Across the business the focused execution of the transformation and cost savings program Calcium delivered above expectations.
Total Arla Group revenue grew 2% to €5.2bn compared to €5.1bn in first half year of 2018, driven by higher strategic branded sales volumes of 4.6% and an increase in sales prices. Arla’s International zone delivered branded volume growth of 10.2%.
In the first half of 2019, Arla delivered a net profit share of 2.3%, up from last half year’s profit share of 2.2%. The company expects its full year net profit share to be within the 2.8 to 3.2% target range.
Arla’s performance price – which measures the value Arla creates per kilogram of owner milk – is the highest in three years at 36.1 EUR-cent compared to 34.7 EUR-cent in the first half of 2018, mainly due to the transformation and cost savings program Calcium delivering ahead of expectations.
“The rare stability in the global dairy market has allowed Arla to build on the momentum we created in 2018. We have strengthened our competitiveness relative to our peers and improved our profitability while launching our ambitious climate goal to become carbon net zero by 2050. We are focused on delivering on our ambitious targets for 2019 while remaining alert and prepared for the continued uncertainties around Brexit,” says Arla Foods CEO Peder Tuborgh.
Positive sales development across all commercial segments
Arla divides its business into two commercial zones, Europe and International. Retail and food service sales in Europe declined 1.5% to €3,149m in the first half of 2019, compared to €3,197m in the first half of 2018. This was mainly due to the strategic decision to step out of selected loss-making private label contracts and the negative currency development of the Swedish krone.
However, the European zone successfully continued to focus on fast scaling successes across Europe and delivered a branded volume growth of 2.3%, driven by product categories such as Lactofree, Skyr, cheese and milk based beverages under the Arla brand and Starbucks.
Arla’s international zone realized double digit in sales and branded growth. Sales increased by 11.9% to €839m in the first half of 2019 compared to €750m in the same period last year, with strong development across regions while strategic branded sales volumes grew 10.6%.
In Arla’s biggest international market, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Arla increased market share in all key product categories. The formal takeover of the Kraft branded cheese business from Mondeléz International with a 12 year license agreement in May will have a great strategic importance for the international zone going forward, the company said.
Another key international market, China, delivered more than 50% growth in both volume and revenue in the organic early life nutrition (ELN) business and liquid milk, due to the recent approval of Arla’s ELN products.
In the first half of 2019, Arla Foods Ingredients (AFI) grew revenue 13.1% to €352m from €311m in the same period last year by successfully moving more volumes into value-added protein segments.
Trading, which is business to business commodities sales, increased by 8.3% to €892m in the first half of 2019 from €796m in the same period of 2018, as the value of protein continued to rise, supporting the value of both skim milk powder and caseinate products for manufacturing.
Across the business Arla continued to increase its branded volume share and delivered growth for the company’s strategic brands of 4.6% in the first half of 2019 compared to 3% in the same period last year.
The Arla brand had a 5.3% branded volume growth in the first half of 2019 supported by the Lactofree brand which grew 13.5%. The milk-based beverages category grew 11.9% with Starbucks leading the way with new innovations.
In the Middle East, Arla launched Puck Squares in the beginning of the year, and the successful brand saw 4.2% growth in the first half of 2019.
Branded volume growth for the butter brand Lurpak was up 1.6%, driven mostly high sales of the spreadable Lurpak softest, despite its high prices. The speciality cheese brand Castello decreased branded volume growth with 4.1%. This is primarily a result of a challenging competitive environment across Europe and some international markets.
“We have continued to build engagement and relevance of our brands through innovative products, brand activation and digital content. Consumers are pushing for more nourishing and sustainable food choices, which is why our intensified climate agenda will help increase both the credibility of Arla farmers and our competitive advantage,” Arla Foods CFO Natalie Knight said.
Arla said its transformation and cost savings program Calcium performed strongly in the first half of 2019. The program has already delivered €97m of the €75-100m full year target for 2019. Arla said it expects the program to deliver at least €100m in 2019 although the expected savings will be significantly lower in the second half of the year compared to the first half.
Overall, Calcium aims to reduce cost by more than €400m, where €300m will go to improving the milk price to farmer owners and more than €100m will be reinvested in the company’s growth.
“We are now well into the second year of our transformation, and throughout the organization we have made sustainable changes to the way we work, spend and invest in our business. The hard work across all areas of the Arla is paying off and we have regained our competitiveness and improved our performance as a business,” Tuborgh said.
Arla said the second half of the year will focus on delivering on full year targets while continuing to outperform peers. There are however, external factors that Arla said could negatively impact its full year expectations. The potential adverse consequences of a hard Brexit continues to be the biggest risk, along with the inherent volatility of the global milk markets.
Arla’s revenue outlook for full year 2019 is expected to be €10.2-10.6bn. Net profit share for 2019 is expected to be in the target range of 2.8-3.2% of revenue. A potential no-deal Brexit could however negatively impact the outlook.
The outlook for branded volume growth is increased to 3.5% or above, up from the previously communicated target of 1.5-3.5%. Focus on sustainability and product innovation drive the higher expectations.