DAWNFRESH Seafoods, which supplies products such as trout and Arbroath Smokies to supermarkets and other retailers, suffered another hefty loss in the latest financial year when turnover fell 21%.

The South Lanarkshire-based company made a pre-tax loss of £4.5 million in the year to March 31, compared with £6.9m the preceding year, after deciding to reduce activity to concentrate on the most profitable lines.

Owned by Alastair Salvesen and members of his family, Dawnfresh saw turnover drop to £38.2m from £48.5m the preceding year, according to the latest accounts.

Loading article content

The accounts cover a year in which shareholders pumped another £8m into the business in return for shares in the company after providing £7m the preceding period.

They show the average number of employees at the group fell by 20%, to 506 from 641.

Writing in the accounts, Mr Salvesen noted the company faced an "extremely challenging" economic environment, with rising costs and a very competitive retail market.

The businessman, whose great-grandfather founded the Christian Salvesen whaling and shipping line, added: "The company remains financially secure because of significant support from its shareholders and is therefore well placed to weather the economic downturn and capitalise on opportunities to grow the business in the coming year."

Mr Salvesen and his family completed a management buyout of the business from Christian Salvesen in 1983. An £11m loan provided by Mr Salvesen to Dawnfresh was outstanding at 31 March last year.

The accounts reveal Dawnfresh has spent more than £5m in the past two years investing in facilities such as trout farms.

In his chairman's report, dated December 2012, Mr Salvesen said the company's facilities were now at a higher standard of readiness to meet customers' demands than ever before.

"The continued focus on reducing our costs and expanding our product offerings to this customer base has helped the busi-ness gain further retail listings and extend its trout export business since the year end," wrote Mr Salvesen.

Supermarkets have been accused of treating small and medium-sized enterprises who supply them unfairly, but deny the claims.

Dawnfresh has invested significant amounts under Mr Salvesen's leadership over the years.

After making acquisitions in Campbeltown and Suffolk, the company consolidated operations in South Lanarkshire. It opened a new £10m factory in Uddingston in 2001.

On its website, the company says it became the largest supplier of fresh and frozen trout in the UK and the second-largest supplier of scampi through the acquisition of Motherwell-based Scot Trout in 2008. Scot Trout owned 23 fish farms and a hatchery at the time.

The acquisition gave the company control of the RR Spink business in Arbroath, which supplies products such as smokies and salmon.

Dawnfresh also owns the Daniel's Sweet Herring business based in Grantown on Spey, Morayshire.