Irish food group Greencore said discontinued operations saw first half sales fall 20.6% as it continues to refocus its business on three main divisions.

Turnover for the six months to 28 March was down to 743.8m euros from 936.5m euros in 2002, with pre-tax profit up 9% to 31.1m euros.

Group like-for-like sales grew by 2.2%, with the chilled and frozen division like-for-likes up 3%.

Greencore said chilled sauces and soup had a satisfactory first half, while “much remains to be done” at its chilled pizza and bread operations.

However, chief executive David Dilger, said: “The sandwich business enhanced its position as the world's largest sandwich manufacturer, with its high level of new product development resulting in top line growth again ahead of the market.”

Dilger noted that there had been strong performances from the ready meals and quiche operations, through new product innovation and range extensions especially over the winter months.

Like-for-like growth of 0.2% at the ambient foods business was impacted by a sales decline at the group’s baked goods business, Rathbones. However, progress was seen in ambient sauces and pickles through NPD and the Campsie Scottish mineral water business, Greencore said.

The ingredients and agribusiness unit had like-for-like sales growth of 3%.