Wholesaler Rowan International has benefited from the recession as the weak pound and the growth of the discounters boost sales.

Pre-tax profits rose 50% to £1.5m in 2008 on sales up 12% to £41m, while sales and profits were up 16% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009.

Chief executive Alan Saywell said he hoped turnover would soon be big enough to break into The Grocer's Big 30 wholesalers.

The weakness of sterling has helped to boost exports, which accounted for 31% of sales in 2008 compared with 26% in 2007. So far in 2009 they had grown to 37% of sales, he said. Rowan specialises in selling health, beauty and grocery products on the 'residual market' dealing primarily with surplus stock.

The growth of independent discounter stores in the UK and in Europe had helped this market grow, said Saywell.

"We offer brand owners a valuable pathway into a sector of the trade that's currently booming," he added. "Everyone is looking for a bargain and we are in the bargain business."

He attributed the company's success to substantial investment in staff and implementation of an aggressive business plan.