Dairy Crest plans to increase its focus on brands after their impressive performance over the past year, chief executive Mark Allen has revealed.

Sales of Clover and Country Life spreads had both risen 29% by volume in the year to 31 March, the company announced in its full-year results. Cathedral City and St Hubert had also increased their market shares.

Last year, the company sold its Stilton and speciality cheese business, and offloaded its share in Yoplait Dairy Crest in March to concentrate on the brands it owned outright.

Brands now generated 80% of Dairy Crest's food sales and would get further marketing support over the next year, Allen said. "If you look at cheese and spreads, brands have grown and own label has gone down," he said.

This year, NPD would focus on health and the 'lighter' sector on the back of strong sales of its three lighter brands, which more than doubled their 2007/2008 sales. Packaging innovation would also come from the company's new Nuneaton cheese packing facility, which comes on stream this year.

At the results on Tuesday, Dairy Crest announced that its overall turnover was up 5% to £1.65bn but adjusted pre-tax profit down 8% to £79.5m. Net debt fell £59m to £415.8m following the YDC sale.

Dairy Crest had substantially reduced debt, taken costs out of the business and maintained strong brand growth, Allen said.

He said he was not considering acquisitions in the near future, but had medium-term ambitions to buy.

The dairy industry was currently facing an "almost unheard of level of volatility", Allen added. Milk prices were not likely to increase in the next few months but in the longer term were likely to rise as the industry re-evaluated the profitability of milk production.

"Our plans for 2009/10 are to maintain our focus on cash management and to continue the development of our key brands," he added.