Northern Foods said first half pre-profit rose just 1% affected by a number of disposals such as the Ski and Munch Bunch yogurt brands to Nestlé, as well as increased pension scheme costs.

To September 30 pre-tax profit before exceptionals was £38.8m from £38.4m last year. Sales from continuing operations grew by 5.4% to £678.1m.

The maker of Goodfellas pizza and Fox’s biscuits have performed well, with sales at its convenience division up 8.9%. But grocery turnover was down 2.3% as sales of other frozen foods and private label biscuits declined.

Group turnover fell 2.9% or £54.9m, the combined sales from the yogurt businesses, Pork Farms’ van operations, Lift Lemon tea and Vanderheul biscuits.

Chairman Peter Blackburn said the group's autumn product launches had been well received and demand for biscuit assortments and puddings is in line with expectations.

Blackburn added that performance in the run-up to Christmas was critical to the outcome for the year, he expected further progress in the second half, with sales in first six weeks ahead by 4.5%.

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