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Sales of chilled foods lift profit at Strathmore

FORFAR-based Strathmore Foods has posted a near 80% rise in pre-tax profits as it ramped up sales of its traditional Scottish chilled foods brand.

The food manufacturer, which produces more than a million pies per month, booked earnings of £843,044 for the year ended June 30, accounts newly-available at Companies House show.

The profits rise came as turnover increased by 8.8% to £12.08 million, with sales driven by the McIntosh of Dyce chilled food brand.

Finance director Dain Egan said the traditional Scottish dishes sold under the brand, including macaroni cheese, Scotch pies and haggis, Scotch pies and neeps and tatties account for the bulk of its sales.

He noted the company had benefited by marketing the brand with television, newspaper and radio advertising, and through activity such as in-store sampling.

Mr Egan said: "The chilled part of our business has shown the most growth and it has been the focus of our attention.

"We have devoted quite a lot marketing spend to increase awareness of the brand, and that has been quite successful in the last couple of years particularly."

Mr Egan highlighted the benefit brought by relatively stable raw material prices over the period, noting it "becomes quite painful quite quickly" when that certainty is not there.

He explained: "When we have a period of price stability it does tend to make things considerably more straightforward for us. It is obviously difficult times for everyone when prices go up, and we try to absorb increases where we can.

"Where we have periods, like the last couple of years, where the raw material prices have been relatively stable, it certainly helps everyone."

Strathmore has a long-standing policy of sourcing meat and vegetables as locally as possible.

While the firm was not directly affected by the horsemeat scandal, Mr Egan said food processing manufacturers in general had been "tarred by the same brush" as a result of the episode.

Asked if the industry was still being affected by the scandal, he said: "There has been [change] in terms of processed meat product. I think the public are more aware and concerned about the contents of the food.

"There has been an increase in the amount of technical testing, which we did anyway. Our customers and ourselves do a lot more because of it.

"We, like I suspect the vast majority of manufacturers, have our systems in place. We have all our accreditations, we follow our systems.

"But there is no doubt we have all been tarred by the same brush in terms of public perception. Hopefully, we are getting through that, and our systems are robust enough to see us continue [to do that]."

The company, which supplies frozen food under the Countryside brand and trades with foodservice outlets as Strathmore, employed 136 staff over the period. Employment costs were booked at £2.9m, up from £2.6m the year prior, with directors' remuneration rising to £749,854 from £494,834.

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