Ella’s Kitchen has grown sales and underlying profitability in its first full year under US ownership, but an exceptional charge of £4.3m pushed the babyfood brand into the red for the first time since it started publishing full accounts in 2009.
The one-off cost stemmed from the write-off of a loan between the UK company and US cousin Ella’s Kitchen Inc, which was formed following the sale to Hain Celestial in May 2013.
It led to operating and pre-tax losses of £1.5m for the year to 30 June 2014, compared with profits of £3.2m in the previous 12 months, according to the newly filed accounts.
Without the one-off charge, Ella’s would have booked increased bottom-line profit of almost £6m, as sales rose 13% to £46.4m - with the UK contributing a 14% increase to £36.2m and international business bringing in 10% more revenue, of £10.1m. The brand increased its market share in the UK wet babyfood sector from 23% to 26% in the period.
Despite the overall loss, Ella’s Kitchen still paid £630k tax in the UK, with corporation tax of £540k, because of intercompany debt restructuring of almost £1m. In 2012-13, when it made a profit, the company benefited from a tax credit of £717k as a result of adjustments related to share options.
Ella’s said top-line growth had been achieved through distribution gains and NPD, including ambient tray meals for the over 12-month age group. Overseas expansion came thanks to a launch into the Benelux countries, but was held back by losses in Australia caused by logistical and marketing issues.
“I am delighted with our brands performance and our consumers clearly agree as we became the biggest baby food brand in the UK,” Mark Cuddigan, managing director Ella’s Kitchen Europe, told The Grocer.
“Ella’s Kitchen’s mission is to improve children’s lives through developing healthy relationships with food and with the fantastically talented team we continue to innovate and disrupt in the category, which has plenty of room for growth.”