Northern Foods has reported strong third-quarter performances for its chilled and bakery arms, helped by the success of Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding at Waitrose.
The bakery business, reported a 5% improvement in sales, buoyed by biscuits and its Christmas pudding range, which included the celebrity chef’s ‘Hidden Orange’ sell-out pudding.
Chilled like-for-like sales were up 9.7%, driven by a good performance from ready meals, but the frozen business – which inclues the revamped Goodfella’s pizza range – continued to slump, with sales down 17% over the quarter.
Group sales for the third quarter were up 2.3%.
The news comes with Northern looking to stave off interest from poultry magnate Ranjit Singh Boparan, who confirmed in December he was considering a counter-offer to its proposed combination with Greencore.
Northern dismissed speculation over a dispute with former adviser NM Rothschild, amid accusations – denied by the investment bank – that it may have passed sensitive information to Boparan.
A spokesman for Northern spokesman told The Grocer meetings between the company and its former adviser had been “perfectly amicable”.
The manufacturer said it continues to recommend the Greencore merger to shareholders. If no counter-bid materialises before the 21 January deadline set by the Takeover Panel, the Greencore tie-up should complete in the second quarter of this year.
Boparan told to put up or shut up over Northern bid (5 January 2011)
Boparan edges closer to hostile bid for Northern (22 December 2010)
Heston’s Christmas pudding is festive hit for Waitrose (29 November 2010)
Heston’s orange pudding is Waitrose Christmas centrepiece (15 July 2010)