Uniq chairman Nigel Stapleton has announced a package of cost cutting measures and the relaunch of the loss making Shape yoghurt brand in a bid to restore the company's fortunes after a disastrous year. While the prepared foods and northern European businesses posted underlying growth of 11% and 10% respectively, operating profit at the convenience foods business slumped 30% owing to problems at St Ivel's yogurts division and the French business Marie. "It is easy to forget that 70% of our business is firing on all cylinders," said Stapleton, who has been trying to spread a culture of "greater urgency and focus" across the business since his appointment in July. Shape will be relaunched in the new year with new product variations and packaging backed by a major TV advertising campaign. In the meantime, Uniq will attempt to recover its dwindling market share in the category by being more aggressive on price. The French operations ran into difficulties because Uniq had "seriously underestimated the size of the challenge" of rationalising them into one unit (Marie-St Hubert), Stapleton explained. Management left in droves, chilled food sales plummeted and new product development fell by the wayside. However, Marie is now back on track in terms of npd, with more new products on the market in the last quarter than in the last 12 months combined. Key to Uniq's wider recovery plan, however, is a move towards more centralised buying. Former Compass executive Simon Atkinson has been drafted in to set up a pan European buying group promising to generate annual cost savings of £10m by 2003/4. Two major product launches with multiple customers in the ready meals and desserts categories are also planned for the first quarter of 2002. Hefty exceptional charges to cover the Wincanton demerger and an impairment provision for Malton Foods pushed the group into an overall pre-tax loss of £28.2m on sales on continuing operations up 2.3% to £493m for the 26 weeks to September 29. Analysts approved of Stapleton's strategy but said things remained "in limbo" while he searched for a new chief executive to implement the plans he has laid out. {{NEWS }}