Ella’s Kitchen boss Mark Cuddigan said trading during the pandemic had been driven by driven a strong performance internationally, whilst continuing to build brand loyalty in the UK

Ella’s Kitchen has continued to grab a larger portion of the babyfood market as the end of Covid restrictions reinvigorates demand for convenience.

Revenues at the brand rose 1.6% to £72.7m in the year ended 30 June 2021 thanks to increased distribution and ongoing range expansions, according to accounts published this week.

Sales rose 1.1% to £58.9m in the UK and by 4% to £13.8m overseas – excluding the US and Canada, which are booked in parent Hain Celestial’s figures.

Ella’s has also benefitted from parents turning to brands with strong sustainability and ‘natural’ credentials, helping it grow its top line throughout the pandemic – even as the wider category suffered from a drop in demand amid a rise in scratch cooking.

As a result, market share in the UK increased yet again, with the brand growing its share of ambient babyfood by 1.2 percentage points to 30.7% in the 52 weeks to 10 July 2021.

Operating profits also increased 11.8% to £12.3m in 2020/21 thanks to a combination of higher sales and lower fixed costs.

The company’s CEO Mark Cuddigan told The Grocer he was prouder than ever of his team, delivering “another outstanding set of results amidst unprecedented challenges”.

“During the pandemic we increased revenues, driven by a strong performance internationally, whilst continuing to build brand love and loyalty in the UK.

“The total UK babyfood category saw a sharp fall due to Covid restrictions, so to grow our sales as the number one brand was fantastic.”

Trading in the new financial year had started strongly, he added, with the brand on track to register a return to double-digit sales growth in 2021/22 as office workers returned and picked up convenient options.

Ella’s had also benefitted from Danone pulling its Cow & Gate brand from the market in jars, pouches and dairy pots.

Ella’s has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the babyfood category, growing sales from less than £500,000 in 2006 when it was established by Paul Lindley to become the market leader, with Hain Celestial snapping up the brand for £70m 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%.

Cuddigan said: “Our continued commitment to the B Corp movement is certainly a driving factor in our success.

“Throughout the pandemic we prioritised our culture and team as well as our community, donating over 900,000 pouches to food banks across the UK. We were also excited to announce our ‘Big Pledge to Little People’ – our promise to future generations to take action on climate change.

“Finally, we’ve played to our strengths in wet baby food where we have relaunched our flagship Smoothie Fruits range – delivering new and exciting ingredients not seen in the baby aisle before whilst also delivering a 15% reduction in sugars across the range in line with our mission to help children build healthy relationships with food.”