Hilton Food Group meat

Meat packing firm Hilton Food Group has not ruled out further expansion in both the UK and Australia after revealing solid interim results for the 28 weeks to 12 July.

Hilton CEO Robert Watson said the group was “very optimistic” about its joint venture with Australian retailer Woolworths, with a new purpose-built retail packing facility in Victoria commencing production last week.

Watson also refused to rule out further expansion across the country in partnership with the retailer, with “lots of opportunities” to grow the meat category down under - particularly in added value. He noted that the group’s Jamie Oliver range had performed particularly well.

The group was also eyeing new opportunities in the UK including innovations such as the new gluten-free Tesco Finest burger and pulled pork products, plus longer-life packaging, BBQ and wagyu beef products, in addition to new partnerships outside its relationship with Tesco.

Hilton reported strong volume growth for the six month period to 12 July, up 5% to 127,913 tonnes, while operating profit grew by 1.3% to £13.7m.

It also reported strong volume growth in Europe, with UK volumes building under its Tesco contract (up 13%), a 13% jump in Ireland and a 4% volume increase in the Netherlands.

While Scandinavian volumes were more challenging, central European volume growth was described as “robust” by analyst Darren Shirley of Shore Capital, who added that Hilton’s Australian venture would “turn increasingly positive in forthcoming quarters”, with the 2016 financial year likely to benefit from not having to shoulder the approximately £1m start-up costs of the new Victoria facility.

Shirley described the group as “a high quality company, with a strong balance sheet, excellent cash generation, very well invested facilities and an ambitious management who continue to look for growth opportunities in new and existing markets”,