Upmarket frozen meals retailer and supplier Cook bounced back from “devastating” conditions to end its latest financial year in sales and profit growth.

Cook entered its latest financial year facing rampant inflation, a heatwave that left high streets deserted, and supply chain disruption, said co-founder Ed Perry. These factors created what Perry dubbed “our most challenging six months since the recession of 2008”.

“At half-time in 2022-23, Team Cook found ourselves in the dressing room 4-0 down,” he said. ”Not because we’d played poorly, but because we were up against truly devastating opposition.”

However, a new strategy – including a value campaign, the launch of vending machines and subscriptions, a recruitment freeze and budget reforecasts – helped turn around performance in the second half of the year to 31 March 2023.

Full-year net sales were up 12% to £106m, with like-for-like growth of 5%. Meanwhile, pre-exceptional EBITDA was up 6% at £6.6m and headline operating profits almost doubled from £2.3m to £4.5m.

In particular, Christmas 2022 sales were up 27%.

“We’re calling it a 4-4 draw. Had there been extra time, we might even have snatched a winner,” Perry said.

Writing in the accounts before Christmas he said the group had moved from “survive” to “thrive” in the new financial year, which will see it open its 100th shop after launching its 1,000th concession in December.

Despite the tough economic conditions last year, the group constructed its third kitchen to add a third to its capacity and moved its national home delivery hub into its main logistics centre in Gillingham.

This investment meant it restructured its financing with lender HSBC, completed in May 2022, as net debt grew from £9.1m to £17m.

However, Perry said the investment provides the company with a “strong base for the future”.

“We are excited by what’s next,” he said. “Plenty of storm clouds remain – around the UK economy in particularly – but we feel the wind in our sales.”