Demand for fresh produce from Thanet Earth is outstripping current supply, founder Christopher Mack has claimed, as the UK's biggest greenhouse development turned its first profit since production started in 2008.

Thanet Earth Marketing the joint venture company that markets crops grown at Thanet Earth generated a £267,000 pre-tax profit in the year to 29 April 2011, following a pre-tax loss of £5m the previous year.

Thanet Earth was not currently producing "huge volumes" of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, but "two of our major retail customers are pushing us to deliver more volume", the executive chairman of TEM co-owner Fresca Group told The Grocer. "We currently have more demand than we can satisfy."

To date, only three of Thanet Earth's seven planned greenhouses had been built and the fourth would not be built until 2012 at the earliest.

The turnaround in TEM's financial performance "wasn't magic", said Mack. It had been achieved as a result of greater efficiency in both yields and costs as well as strong leadership by Ian Craig, who was ­appointed TEM MD in February 2010.

Mack admitted that TEM had not anticipated that its losses in the first year would be as high as they were. But while the numbers still weren't "great", they had gone "from ­something very painful to something heading in the right direction", he said.

Turnover in the period had also increased by 19.7% from the previous year, to £64m, which Mack attributed to growth in volumes through existing retailers rather than winning any new contracts.

News of Thanet Earth's performance came as Fresca Group itself this week reported a 48.2% increase in pre-tax profits, to £7.3m, while turnover climbed 6.9%, to £389.5m.

Thanet Earth Marketing is 50% owned by Fresca Group and 50% owned by three of Thanet Earth's ­on-site growers; Kaaij Greenhouses UK, Rainbow Growers and A&A Growers.

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