Ella’s Kitchen has defied a pandemic-driven slump in the babyfood category to grow revenues and market share in the UK.

Revenues at Ella’s rose 0.5% to £58.3m in the year ended 30 June 2020, according to accounts filed at Companies House this week.

That was despite successive lockdowns taking a toll on prepared meals and on-the-go pouches, as shoppers cooked more for their children during the pandemic.

The trend drove a 3.9% fall in value in the babyfood & snacks category to £240.8m, according to Nielsen [52 w/e 28 November 2020].

CEO Mark Cuddigan said the growth of Ella’s was driven by NPD across all its core categories, including a dairy-free range of pouches rolled out in March. It also gained additional distribution.

By outperforming rivals, Hain Celestial-owned Ella’s also increased market share in ambient babyfood by 1.3 percentage points to 29.6%, the accounts showed. Cuddigan said this was the 16th year of market share growth.

“The babyfood category declined sharply throughout the pandemic as parents had more time at home and were cooking from scratch more,” Cuddigan said.

“Ella’s Kitchen continued to grow market share in the UK for the 16th year in a row; something we are incredibly proud of.”

Group revenues declined 2.6% for the financial year to £71.6m on the back of a 14.1% reduction in international sales to £13.3m caused by internal changes by parent Hain Celestial. Ella’s overseas numbers already excluded sales in the US and Canada, with Hain now booking figures from some European markets as well.Cuddigan added the international business also continued to grow during the year.

Operating profits at Ella’s slipped by 0.7% to £11m in the year to 30 June, with pre-tax profits up slightly to £11.4m as a result of interest on intercompany loans.“As a certified B Corporation, we are always looking to balance our profit with people and the planet,” Cuddigan said.

“Throughout the pandemic I am much prouder of how we prioritised the health and well-being of our team, our charity partners, where we were able to deliver over 900,000 pouches to the most vulnerable children in society, and with regards to the planet, where we have measured our entire carbon footprint and are now in the process of setting scienced-based targets, as we start to deliver on our commitment to be a net-zero business by 2030.

“Since the end of our financial year, we have seen stronger growth as we remain focused on delivering our mission.”

Ella’s has grown sales rapidly from less than £500,000 in 2006 when it was established by Paul Lindley, with Hain Celestial paying close to £70m to take over the group in May 2013.

The company delivered 12 straight years of double-digit revenue growth, ending in the 2017/2018 financial period when sales increased 7.5%.