Belazu saw double-digit growth of 15.8% to £42m and increased profilt contribution

William Jackson Food Group grew sales and moved back into the black last year despite the cost of living crisis and a drop in online grocery shopping.

The Jacksons Bakery, Abel & Cole and Belazu owner posted a 9.4% rise in underlying sales to £314.6m in the year to 29 April 2023, a period that chairwoman Sonya Eastaugh called “not an easy year”.

She pointed to inflation and the cost of living crisis being “key challenges on our journey to becoming an even stronger group”.

The headline sales uplift was achieved despite a drop in online grocery activity, which hit its organic veg box business Abel & Cole.

Abel & Cole saw a 15.4% drop in sales from £97.6m to £81.2m amid the post-Covid slump in DTC grocery, which resulted in the brand falling back to a £0.8m operating loss from a £3.6m profit.

Nevertheless, other areas of the business mitigated this fall, with its Belazu olives and ingredients brand seeing double-digit growth of 15.8% to £42m and increased profit contribution.

Three of the group’s four businesses grew their sales during the year.

Overall group-wide EBITDA rose to £16.3m from £14.8m, while the group moved from an operating loss of £0.5m last year to a profit of £1.6m.

Bottom line performance was improved by the disposal of its loss-making MyFresh Prepared Produce business to Tuber Group in June 2022. MyFresh had lost £8.3m, including an exceptional writedown of 3.9m, in the previous year.

Meanwhile, the group acquired Japanese specialist brand Miso Tasty at the end of the financial year.

“Despite the unprecedented conditions of the last year, we have continued on our trajectory of becoming a strong group,” the accounts stated.

“As we enter our 2024 financial year we remain cautious about the ongoing challenges impacting the industry and the wider economy, but remain confidence that we are well-placed to manage these.”