John Power Symington's

Symington’s CEO John Power 

Symington’s is back into the black as a turnaround strategy has started to yield results.

Pre-tax profits for the year to 27 August 2017 were £1.7m, compared with a near £6m loss in the prior 18-month period to 28 August 2016, according to accounts about to be filed with Companies House.

The Leeds-headquartered business restructured in 2016 in a cost-cutting drive after suffering a raft of delistings for its Chicken Tonight and Ragu brands, with redundancy costs dragging it into the red.

CEO John Power, who joined in October 2016, ploughed savings made from slashing Symington’s SKU count and other efficiencies back into brands last year, initially focusing on Mug Shot and Naked Noodle.

Revenues slipped again to £115m in 2016/17, down from annualised sales of £117.9m (£175.8m for the 18-month financial year). However, sales in the second half of the year increased 5.8%, with Mug Shot up 18% and Naked Noodle 95%. EBITDA also jumped 26% to £9.2m in the year.

“These results illustrate a complete turnaround from the prior year and are reflective of the tireless and dedicated work of colleagues throughout the business,” Power said. “It was a year of two halves but we delivered what we set out to do. We initially focused on reducing our cost base and ensuring a platform for growth and brand investment. In the second half, we switched focus to deliver a top-line growth strategy, with significant investment in marketing and NPD behind our brands. This strategy has proven very successful and we feel hugely excited and confident for the future.”

Symington’s, backed by private equity firm ICG since a £72m buyout in 2012, recorded 15 years of consecutive growth until a slowdown in 2015, with consumers increasingly turning their backs on processed food in favour of healthier alternatives.

Power said the momentum had continued into the new financial year, with investment in brands such as Chicken Tonight driving further recovery.

“With a product range that spans brand and own-label and satisfies demand for convenient, tasty food in our busy lives, backed by a team that can realise their potential, we have everything to play for,” he said.

Power is backed by industry veteran Matt Lee, who he hired as chief comercial officer in early 2017, along with Kevin Butterworth, who joined in August from Seabrook Crisps as director of marketing, and Kirsty Cooper in the newly created role of director of market, strategy & planning.