Dairy Crest has hailed strong performances from key brands including Cathedral City, Clover and Frijj despite a dip in overall sales for the year to date.

The company said profits for the nine months to 31 December were ahead of expectations, although total sales were down by 1% for the period – in part due to slumping demand for commodity ingredients.

Its five key brands – completed by Country Life and its St Hubert Omega 3 spread – had seen a 10% rise in like-for-like sales over the previous year.

The company also said it had been boosted by the recent severe weather, with milk volumes up by 17% in the first week of 2010.

But a question mark was raised over the security of jobs at its Kirkby spreads factory, where the company said it had “identified potential efficiency savings” and was now “in consultation with employees to reduce [its] cost base”.

“Over the last two years our five key brands have grown by 39% [and] we will continue to focus on the strategy that has helped us deliver this success,” said chief executive Mark Allen.

“Increased investment in our liquid milk dairies will allow us to drive further cost efficiencies, remain competitive and maintain high levels of service to our customers.”

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