Cranswick lifted by festive demand for pork

GOURMET sausage and bacon firm Cranswick reported strong trading in the run up to Christmas as customers opted for pork and gammon joints over more expensive beef and lamb roasts.

The Hull-based firm reported a “strong” sales performance in the three months to December 31, with underlying revenue up 13 per cent. Total sales rose 14 per cent after taking into account third party sales made by Wayland Farms.

Cranswick’s chief executive Adam Couch said recent market data showed growth in pork sales during the festive season, particularly roasting joints, thanks to the versatility and low price of pork compared with beef and lamb.

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“Gammon really resonates with customers, especially the more cost conscious,” said Mr Couch.

He said that sales of pastry products also made good progress, boosted by the launch of a range of savoury filled gourmet pies and a new Christmas range, both of which performed strongly.

Last summer, Cranswick opened its new factory at Malton in North Yorkshire, which focuses on making premium pastry products for Marks & Spencer, its anchor customer.

New products included beef and ale, chicken and mushroom and chicken and leek pies as well as premium sausage rolls and a range of Christmas lattices.

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The group said that pig prices remained at record highs, but efficiency improvements, internal pig production and constructive pricing discussions with customers helped to offset the full impact.

As a result there was some recovery in operating margin, although it remains below last year for the year to date.

Cranswick made further investment in its pig breeding and rearing activities through the purchase of two additional breeding units last month.

The total number of pigs produced internally is now 20 to 25 per cent of weekly requirements. The group said this gives it greater control over its supply chain, with a clear focus on premium British ingredients and has helped to offset the impact of higher input costs.

Analyst Darren Shirley, at Shore Capital, said: “Cranswick has reported continued strong trading momentum, with the group once again materially outperforming a subdued UK grocery market.”