Chilled convenience food manufacturer Geest said group full-year sales rose 15% although its fresh prepared sales at 8% lagged the UK market.

The group, which produces chilled foods such as ready meals, pizzas, bagged lettuce, pastas posted pre-tax profit for the year to end December of £40.9m compared to £40.7m last year.

Sales were up to £762m from £664m in 2001, boosted by a 16% rise in ready meal sales and 14% for pizzas

Chairman John Banham said: "We remain focused on the fresh prepared food market where growth, currently running at 9% in the UK, will easily outstrip that for the food sector as a whole."

Last June, Geest issued a profits warning after salad sales slumped in May and June before recovering, although not to pre-summer levels.