Turnover surpasses £400m at dairy giant Ornua Foods UK

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Dairy giant Ornua Foods UK saw turnover and profits rise in 2020 despite the ‘significant challenges’ of Brexit and Covid-19.

For the 12 months to December 26, 2020, the company – which is best known for producing Pilgrims Choice cheese and Kerrygold butter – recorded a 16.1 per cent increase in turnover to £411 million. While pre-tax profit grew by 26.8 per cent to £5.2 million for the same period.

The Staffordshire Moorlands-based business says its financial performance was achieved against a backdrop of a ‘complex trading environment’ dominated by the global pandemic and Brexit.

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It said that the results reflect ‘strong underlying business growth’ and come on the back of a change in consumer behaviour during the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns which saw an increase in home cooking.

But it added that profitability was impacted by an increase in costs as the business put Covid-19 safety measures in place across its operations and met increased consumer demand with extended operating times.

Bill Hunter, managing director of Ornua Foods UK, said: “Ornua Foods UK had a strong year with pre-tax profits up 26 per cent, despite the significant challenges presented by the global pandemic and the post-Brexit transition.

“The key fundamentals of our business, namely great people, products, and partners, came to the fore as we all worked together to keep high quality food on supermarket shelves across Britain.

“I’m 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 were able to meet the surge in demand in retail while maintaining our customer service, product quality, and availability levels throughout.”

Bill Hunter, managing director at Ornua Foods UK.

During the 12-month period, Ornua Foods UK – which is the UK’s largest supplier of retail packed cheese – says it worked hard to minimise the impact of Brexit by putting in contingency stock storage in the UK and developing tailored customer stock requirement plans.

It also successfully balanced the safety of its staff and a need to meet customer demand during the pandemic by ‘building as much resilience as possible into its supply chain’ to mitigate any potential disruption.

In November, the company announced plans to invest £3 million into state-of-the-art cutting and packing equipment at its Leek factory, including an additional high-speed cheese slicing line and expanding its cheese grating capabilities.

The investment has seen capacity at the site increase by an additional 7,000 tonnes, bringing the company’s total annual production of branded and own-label cheese to more than 110,000 tonnes.

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Bill Hunter added: “Looking ahead, our long-term strategic focus is on driving continuous improvement, delivering best in class category expertise and support to customers, building a strong own-label and branded product portfolio and optimising experience in dairy commodities.

“This, together with 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 Foods UK employs around 650 people at its Sunnyhills Road factory in Leek.

It produces and packs butter and cheese into a range of formats – blocks, grated or sliced – which is then sold into some of the country’s biggest supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Iceland, as branded cheddar or own-label cheese.

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