Brakes is to make a fresh round of redundancies as part of an ongoing cost-saving drive. By the end of January, 200 staff would have been laid off since October, confirmed CEO, Frank McKay.

Last month, The Grocer revealed Brakes was making "less than 100" of its 7,500 staff redundant, but McKay said the figure had now increased. Brakes would close a third Woodward Foodservice depot - in Aberdeen - in the wake of its September acquisition, he said.

"We expect 2009 to be challenging and we have been taking appropriate action," said McKay. "We will be continuously looking at our structure - we are turning over every single stone to take cost out."

Brakes had already taken 150 of its 1,550 trucks off the road to make its delivery process more efficient, he said. Its Pauleys fresh meat service, which used to have its own fleet, was now being delivered on the same lorries as the main business. The company was considering a similar strategy for its fish business M&J Seafood.

The cost-cutting measures were paying off, said McKay. Turnover and profit for the year ending December 2008 were up on last year and profitability was set to further improve in 2009.

The company's three big acquisitions - Woodward Foodservice, Northern Irish business O'Kane Food Service and Rault in France - were performing better than expected, he added.

Indeed, Woodward, which made a loss of £16m in the year to March 2008, had already added a further £70m to the company's turnover and was expected to turn a profit in 2009.

McKay also revealed that the 98p fuel surcharge introduced in August was to be scrapped from 1 January as the business had acquired cheaper fuel for the first six months of 2009.

Brakes planned to take advantage of falling interest rates next year to reduce the payments on its £1.3bn debt by about a quarter, he added. Meanwhile, a new Brakes The Baker range would hit the market at the end of February.