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Record mince pie sales have helped Premier Foods (PFD) into a second consecutive quarter of growth, but its past star performers Mr Kipling and Cadbury cakes stalled.

The Oxo and Bisto supplier reported a 4% increase in group sales to £261.4m in the 13 weeks ended 30 December after selling 220 million mince pies in 2017 – four million more than in the previous year.

Non-branded sales soared 17% in the third quarter as a result, with its own label business supplying mince pies to the discounters growing and other contract wins in seasonal lines. Branded sales in contrast were up just 0.7%.

Premier said the results reflected the robust performance of the UK food market and the benefits of the group’s strategic partnerships.

Its sweet treats division, which has been Premier’s strongest performer in recent years when other parts of the business have struggled, increased sales by 2.2% in the quarter, but this was driven by 19.3% growth in non-branded as branded sales plunged 7.3%.

Cadbury cake sales continued to grow strongly in International markets but fell in the UK following “short term capacity constraints”. Additionally, Cadbury sales were hit by a move to more optimal promotional activity compared with a year ago, Premier added.

Sales of Mr Kipling cakes were also lower in the quarter as a result of the move in promotional activity.

“We delivered another good quarter of growth, with sales up +4% in Q3 and +2.6% in the first three quarters of the year,” CEO Gavin Darby said.

“Our international business produced another excellent quarter and our partnerships with Nissin and Mondelez International continue to deliver strong performances, demonstrating their strategic benefits to us. With our leading category positions and commitment to product innovation, our expectations for progress this year remain unchanged.”

Total sales in the grocery business were 4.8% higher in the period, with growth in both the branded and non-branded parts of the portfolio.

Branded sales were ahead 3.4% and non-branded sales increased by 13.9%, the latter mainly because of continued growth from existing contracts and new business wins, notably in stuffing.

Batchelors, which is the source of speculation this week around a sale to Nissin, delivered its fourth successive quarter of sales growth, reflecting the continued benefits of the Nissin strategic partnership. Batchelors Super Noodles in a pot has now delivered over £5m sales since its launch last year. Additionally, Soba Noodles has delivered £2m sales since the group received distribution rights.

Sales and volumes of Bisto and Oxo both grew in the quarter, benefitting from media advertising. In desserts, Angel Delight continued its strong performance from Q2 into Q3, growing over 30% following the introduction of the convenient ready-to-eat pot range in 2017, while Ambrosia sales were lower. Cooking sauces also delivered sales growth in the period, with improved trends from Sharwood’s and Homepride in particular.

International sales increased by 26% in the quarter, reflecting continued strong progress in Australia, the launch of Mr Kipling and Cadbury cake in New Zealand and a number of new customer listings for Sharwood’s in Europe and the US.

Shares in Premier leapt another (see below in Yesterday in the City) 3.9% this morning to 44.4p.

Morning update

Demand for seasonal favourites the festive bake and hot mince pies have helped Greggs (GRG) record its 17th quarter of like-for-like sales growth in a row.

However, growth in the final quarter of the year was below a year ago, with like-for-like sales up by 3%, which Greggs said reflected “the particularly favourable trading pattern” in the last three months of 2016.

Total sales increased 7.4% in the 2017 financial year, with company-managed shop like-for-like sales up by 3.7%.

Greggs finished the year trading from 1,854 shops after opening 131 new units and closing 41. It plans to increase the rate of shop openings in 2018, with the number of net additions expected to be between 110 and 130.

“We finished 2017 well, delivering our 17th consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth, and anticipate that we will report full year results for 2017 in line with our previous expectations,” CEO Roger Whiteside said,

“In the year ahead, we will continue to focus on delivering the outstanding value and taste that Greggs is famous for. 2018 will be a record year for investment in our supply chain and we intend to increase the rate of new shop openings as we continue to grow Greggs as a leading food-on-the-go brand.”

Shares in Greggs jumped 3.3% to 1,348p as markets opened this morning.

Ingredients group TATE & Lyle (TATE) has appointed its chief financial officer Nick Hampton as new CEO, effective from 1 April 2018.

He succeeds Javed Ahmed who, having served as chief executive since October 2009, will step down from the role and the board to retire.

Hampton joined Tate & Lyle as CFO in September 2014 from PepsiCo where he had served as president West Europe and senior vice president commercial Europe since 2013. Prior to that, during a 20-year career at PepsiCo, he held a number of senior finance and operational roles.

Tate chairman Gerry Murphy said: “Nick has been an outstanding chief financial officer with a strong track record of driving performance, building teams and capabilities, and focusing on key customers and markets.

“We are confident he has the experience, energy and vision to lead Tate & Lyle through the next phase of its development. My fellow board members and I look forward to working with Nick and our top team in the exciting years ahead.”

He added: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Javed Ahmed for his exceptional leadership of Tate & Lyle over the last eight years. During his tenure, Tate & Lyle has been through a very significant strategic, operational and organisational transformation from a largely commodity business into the high quality global food ingredients business it is today. Javed has led the company with great skill, energy and commitment, and he leaves it in a very strong position. The board and everyone at Tate & Lyle thank Javed for his outstanding service and contribution, and wish him every success and happiness in the years ahead.”

Hampton said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed Tate & Lyle’s next chief executive. Tate & Lyle has a strong portfolio of ingredients, outstanding people, and deep technical expertise. As global demand for healthier and tastier food continues to grow, this business has the opportunity to deliver meaningful benefits for our customers, employees, shareholders and society at large in the years ahead. I look forward to working with Gerry, the board, the management team, and all our employees to drive Tate & Lyle’s business forward.”

The process to appoint a new CFO is underway, and a further announcement is set to be made “in due course”.

Shares in Tate increased 1.1% to 696.8p on the news.

Sports nutrition firm Science in Sport plc (SIS) said in a pre-close trading update for the 12 months ended 31 December that sales increased 28% to £15.6m.

Continued investment in the company’s platform and operations resulted in a 58% increase in direct sales year on year to £4.6m. Third-party online retailers delivered robust growth of 27% to £3.9m. Retail sales including distributors outgrew the market at 13.8% to £7.1m.

Further development of international markets was a key focus during the year. Growth across all international revenue was 60% reaching £4.4m.

Ex-plan investment was made in the US and Italy, which has set these markets up for significant growth in 2018 following the raising of additional funding in December 2017. The Australian business continued to perform to expectation.

Marketing investment resulted in record levels of brand awareness and usage.

“The board remains confident of continued strong growth in 2018 and beyond,” SIS said. “The company intends to issue its full year results on Wednesday 21 March 2018.”

SIS’ share price edged down 0.4% to 73.7p.

For the first time in its history of almost 175 years, chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli achieved sales worth more than CHF 4bn (£3bn) Swiss francs. Besides gaining significant shares in almost all markets, Lindt & Sprüngli once again grew faster than the overall chocolate market, with a particularly strong performance in the UK.

“Given the challenging conditions, such as largely saturated chocolate markets, a changing retail landscape and growing pressure on prices, this represents a good performance,” the pre-close trading update said.

“The results achieved in Europe and the rest of the world segment are particularly worth mentioning, as is the development of the group’s own retail network, which continues apace and reached sales worth half a billion for the first time. Despite weaker results in the USA, Lindt & Sprüngli remains on track in the world’s largest chocolate market and during the last financial year set the foundation for further profitable growth.”

Yesterday in the City

Shares in Premier Foods were given a boost by speculation in The Sunday Times that it was in talks to sell its Batchelors noodle brand to Japan’s Nissin Foods. The supplier issued a short statement to the stock exchange playing down any discussions as at a very early stage. The stock was up 3.3% to 42.7p by end of trading.

There was little other news yesterday to drive activity. Greencore (GNC), Tesco (TSCO), Britvic (BVIC) and Dairy Crest (DCG) were all among the risers, up 1.8% to 221.6p, 1.4% to 207.8p, 1.3% to 799.5p and 1.2% to 589p respectively.

Greggs slipped 1.5% to 1,309.2p ahead of this morning’s results. SSP Group (SSPG), WH Smith (SMWH) and Compass (CPG) were down 1.7% to 651.5p, 1.3% to 2,157.4p and 1% to 1,535p.