Symington’s poised to sell oodles of noodles to China

John Power MBE, chief executive of convenience food manufacturer Symington's.
John Power MBE, chief executive of convenience food manufacturer Symington's.
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A convenience food manufacturer is making surprising move on the Far East as it prepares to sell noodles to the Chinese.

Symington’s in Leeds, which makes branded meals and snacks for a variety of household names, revealed today it is in ‘detailed discussions’ to supply its brands including instant noodle product Naked Noodle, in Chinese supermarkets.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, chief executive John Power MBE said: “Hot water is everywhere in China. You go to buy your newspaper and there’s a free hot water tap by the stand on the street so it really fits with our brands.

“Who’d have thought we could sell noodles to the Chinese? But I’m pretty sure we’re going to be this year.”

The move into China is part of Symington’s turnaround strategy to boost sales and increase its customer base.

The company is the owner of Mug Shot, Naked Noodle, ilumi, Chicken Tonight and Ragu. It also produces foods under long-term licence with Ainsley Harriott, Aunt Bessie’s savoury baking range, Golden Wonder and multiple kids licences such as Peppa Pig.

The company returned to profit last year after shutting down factories and reducing the number of products it produces.

Net pre-tax profit for the year ended August 27, 2017 was £1.7m, compared to a £5.6m loss the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House today.

Turnover fell 2.7 per cent to £115m, compared to £117m the previous year although Mr Power said sales grew in the second half of the year by 5.8 per cent.

“That was a deliberate part of the plan,” he said. “Initially, we wanted to use the money to reinvest into the business both in brand building and restructuring.”

This year growth is expected to reach six or seven per cent, in what Mr Power described as a ‘flat’ market.

Its Mug Shot and Naked Noodle brands increased by 18 per cent and 95 per cent respectively during the year. Naked Noodle is one of the UK’s fastest growing brands.

Symington’s quadrupled its turnover from £48m to £200m in just six years under previous chief executive David Salkeld but in 2015 the business hit its first slump in profits in 15 years.

Mr Power, who joined the company in 2016, took over and transformed the business by getting rid of 50 head office staff, installing a new senior management team and shutting down two of its factories. The company now operates across five sites.

Mr Power has halved the number of products it makes - from 1,400 to 700 across 25 brands - and now invests in building its brands through sponsorship and free samples.

Looking ahead, the company’s strategy includes boosting exports to countries it already supplies as well as entering new markets in China, the US and India. It is also trying to crack the convenience store market, and plans to grow its online presence.

“They are huge opportunities for this business,” said Mr Power.