Consumer demand soars for pork and poultry

Upmarket sausage maker Cranswick cheered investors with a 23 per cent leap in half year sales as it continues to defy the consumer downturn.

Adam Couch, chief executive of Cranswick

The Hull-based group reported strong growth across all areas as more people opt for pork and poultry, which are seen as versatile and healthy options to more expensive red meats.

The group announced plans to invest £67m in its poultry operations to double capacity - its biggest investment to date. It will also invest £29m to double the foot print of its charcuterie operations in Bury, where it produces cured meats, olives, corned beef, stuffed peppers, soft cheeses and party platters.

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Cranswick’s CEO Adam Couch said: “Pork and poultry are really well placed in terms of value proposition. We’ve seen phenomenal growth in poultry.

“It is a very prominent protein and is consumed in every other meal occasion. Poultry is very similar to pork in health benefits and convenience.”

Exports are becoming increasingly important to the group and export revenues jumped 30 per cent in the six months to September 30.

The group has just been granted permission to ship pigs’ trotters to China and it has broken in to the South Korean and Japanese markets. In the past it has sold pig parts that British people don’t want to eat such as trotters but now it is selling pork belly and more premium cuts such as pork loin.

At the same time British demand is strong and the fall in the pound since the EU referendum has made imports more expensive. The UK is around 55 per cent self sufficient for pork and Mr Couch expects that figure to increase.

The group’s like-for-like sales jumped 18 per cent while overall sales rose 23 per cent to £715m in the six months to September 30. Pre-tax profit rose 17 per cent to £44.4m.

“This represents the strong performance from each of our categories,” said Mr Couch.

“Premium categories are outperforming the wider market and are growing at double digit levels.”

Strong demand for meal kits, particularly in London, has driven sales in areas like marinated pork steaks.

Cranswick is ramping up production of festive goods with pigs in blankets proving more popular than ever. It is also gearing up its pastry production and expects a boost when Marks & Spencer launches advertising for its Beef & Bone Marrow Pie.

In preparation for the UK leaving the EU, Cranswick is investing in British workers and will have 100 apprentices across the business this year.

“We recognise what could be a more challenging environment,” said Mr Couch.

The group’s shares shot up 9 per cent to 3,290p.

Analyst Darren Shirley at Shore Capital said: “Cranswick’s results demonstrate the significant benefit of management’s clarity of strategy, industry leading investment profile and operational excellence.

“Total sales in the period increased by an outstanding 23 per cent. A record £29m of investment for the first half is reported, whilst a proposed £67m investment in poultry underlines management’s ambitions in the category.

“Cranswick is a high-class act delivering robust double digit revenue and profit growth.”