The man at the helm of Cadbury in the UK today paid a glowing tribute to the chocolate firm’s "fantastic collective effort" after sales defied the downturn to jump by 12 per cent.
Trevor Bond, managing director for Great Britain and Ireland, blew away the recession blues to praise Cadbury’s half-year results which delivered underlying pre-tax profits of £262 million to the end of June, an increase of 11 per cent.
But Mr Bond warned that the chocolate giant had to continue to listen to its consumers to succeed - and said the group was seeking to improve further on its current 12.4 per cent profit margins.
"These are a great set of results, not just for Cadbury PLC globally but for Great Britain and Ireland. We are very pleased and proud - this is a fantastic collective effort," he said.
"We have a great business and our heart is in every sense in Bournville. We have invested £100 million in Bournville and millions of pounds are being spent there every year.
"But we are not in a cocoon at Cadbury’s. We are operating in a very, very competitive world. Too many of us have seen what has happened at Rover and now at LDV.
"I do not see the recession ending any time soon. There is a lot of unemployment and I think it will take many, many years to get back to where we were before. We are having to re-set our business for this new reality.
"We have imposed a pay freeze across all our colleagues in the UK and executives across the world. We are being very tight with our suppliers." Mr Bond said "austerity, agility and aggression" were key planks of Cadbury’s business plan.
Mr Bond said the re-introduction of the Wispa bar had proved a huge success for the company. "Wispa is a classic illustration of listening to our customers and involving them in bringing it back.
"A lot of what we have done of late around this great business focuses on our consumers."
He said profit margins of 12.4 per cent had to be increased to a "mid-teens" figure. "We are less profitable than our competitors and we are working hard on that. We need to make sure that our Britain and Ireland factories are competitive in today’s world."
He said the sales rise reflected the popularity of Cadbury's "great brands." "People go back to what they know and love. We sell something that puts a smile on people’s faces."
The Cadbury’s sales success was revealed as workers demonstrated at plants in Bournville, Chirk, Marlbrook and Somerdale in a dispute over the final year of a three-year pay agreement.
Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for the food and retail sector, said: "The workforce are angry and feel betrayed by the company who are raking in record profits yet clawing back an agreed, and very small, pay deal."
Cadbury refutes the Unite claims.
Analysts said Cadbury’s like-for-like sales growth of 3.9 per cent in the period was ahead of City forecasts for a figure of just below three per cent.
Chocolate revenues, which account for 45 per cent of sales, rose seven per cent in the first quarter and by 13 per cent in the second quarter. Gum and candy sales were unchanged in the first half, with the latter helped by an improved showing from Halls.
Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said the company appeared to be in good shape despite the recession.
He added: "In the face of tough economic times, consumers’ desire for low cost treats such as chocolate and sweets looks to be playing its part."