Premier Foods has pledged to invest in brands including Hovis, Mr Kipling and Loyd Grossman as part of a new growth strategy, as the manufacturing giant announced a return to profitability after last year’s £405m loss.

Premier identified five ‘drive’ categories with the greatest potential for growth, including bread, cakes and cooking sauces. The other categories singled out were desserts, led by its Ambrosia and Hartley’s brands, and meat-free (Quorn).

It also named four ‘core’ categories where growth would be slower but the company could boost market share: convenience, led by its Batchelor’s brand; pickles, chutney and relish (Branston); gravy (Bisto); and stock (Oxo).

The strategy was unveiled as Premier announced pre-tax profits of £47m, having posted a loss of £405m in 2008.

Branded sales rose 6.5% in the past 12 months to £1.68bn, while group debt was reduced to £1.37bn, down from more than £1.7bn last year.

Premier chief executive Robert Schofield said the company had achieved “a tremendous amount in 2009”.

“We strengthened our balance sheet, cut debt, increased trading profits and returned to positive earnings,” he said. “Most importantly, we improved the performance of all our key brands in a highly competitive market place.”

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