Dairy Crest is on track to grow its four key brands this year, as it continues to “cope well” in a challenging environment, the company claims.

Taken collectively, sales of Cathedral City, Country Life, Clover and Frijj were up 4% by volume and 5% in value over the nine month period to 31 December 2012, Dairy Crest reported this morning in its interim management statement.

However, it marks a slowdown from the double-digit increases during the first six months of the year. The company blamed the “tough comparatives we have been trading against in the third quarter”, in the statement, adding that it anticipated single-digit growth in the full year to 31 March 2013.

The dairy giant said it aimed to deploy the cash generated from its sale of its French St Hubert spreads business last year to make targeted acquisitions which would deliver strong returns to shareholders. “We do not currently anticipate that any significant acquisition will be made in the near future,” said chief executiveMark Allen.

Capital investment would remain high next year as the company invested in its Kirby spreads site and it started other projects, including adding further value to the whey it produced as a by-product of its cheesemaking activities.   

The company was also on track to beat its target of delivering annual cost savings of £23m this year and had continued with initiatives to restore profitability in its Dairies division towards a medium-term target of a 3% return on sales, it added in the statement.