Northern Foods’ share price rose strongly this week after the company released solid Christmas trading figures.

Underlying sales for the year to date rose 3.5%, with the strongest performance in the chilled division, up 5.3%, as the company bucked a declining ready meals market.

However, volumes across the business were down 1.4% year-on-year. CEO Stefan Barden said the volume drop was due to the company’s focus on cash profits over volume-driven sales”.

“We’re looking for profitable volume growth in a stable way,” he said. “The volume we’ve lost was largely from losing marginal products, especially in frozen, and promotions.”

The company said it expected to meet its full-year profit targets of about £46m. Shares in Northern Foods rose 11.7% on the news, making it the FTSE 350’s strongest riser on Tuesday.

“There’s always some nervousness about Northern in January,” said Barden. “Before I joined the company it issued January profit warnings in five years out of six. Northern is a very different company now, and this update has reassured investors.”