Food logistics group NFT Distribution has fallen into the red during a challenging year for its grocery customers but the group said it was “well-placed” for future sustained profitable growth.

Exceptional one-off costs of £7.1m related to a major incident which closed the M1 motorway for 18 hours on 2 December 2015 and operational disruption caused by the start of a contract for a major new customer pushed the group to an operating loss of £7.1m in the year to 31 March 2016. It compared with a profit of £4.3m in the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Pre-tax losses came in at £6.6m, compared with a profit of £2.2m in 2014/15, after additional finance costs of £1.9m.

NFT remained profitable at an underlying level, with EBITDA slipping from £9.6m to £8.2m

The group, which delivers chilled food to all the big four grocers, as well as M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and the discounters and symbol groups, said a slight dip in revenues from £162.6m to £158.6m was evidence of headwinds affecting the UK grocery sector.

CEO David Frankish remained confident of future growth thanks to the £20m acquisition of temperature controlled distribution business NR Evans in July last year. The deal strengthened NFT’s offering in the chilled, ambient and dairy fmcg supply chain and added nine distribution centres to its eight-strong portfolio.

“Our strategic focus on being the market leader in our field has been enhanced by our recent investments and I believe NFT is well placed to achieve sustained profitable growth,” Frankish added.

NFT – owned by Hong Kong-based private equity firm EmergeVest – also strengthened its balance sheet during the financial year with £10m of investor loan notes being converted into equity.

The group employs more than 2,500 staff, delivering about 130,000 pallets of food and drink each week.