Sales of meat alternative Quorn showed a sharp rise after its new owner spent more money on advertising and launched new products.
Crosse & Blackwell-toAmbrosia firm Premier Foods has been rewarded for its £172 million acquisition of Quorn in June 2005 with a double digit percentage rise in sales of the product for the first six months to July 1.
The company has also been encouraged by the perform-ance of Branston Baked Beans, which it said had consolidated its market share at around ten per cent as it takes on rival Heinz in a sector worth an estimated £250 million a year.
In a trading statement yesterday, St Albans-based Premier said cost pressures remained an issue but added that sales growth across the group, which also makes Loyd Grossman sauces, had been in line with its targets.
Chief executive Robert Schofield said: "The first half of 2006 has reflected the continued success of our strategy of growing our branded sales with Quorn, Branston, Loyd Grossman and Ambrosia all continuing to grow strongly."
Quorn became Premier's largest brand after it bought North Yorkshire-based owner Marlow Foods from Montagu Private Equity.
Since its UK launch a decade ago, Quorn has become the UK's largest meat alternative brand with annual retail sales of around £100 million.
It initially targeted vegetarians but has recently been boosted by the trend towards healthier eating and lower meat consumption.
Quorn is made from a mycroprotein, a member of the fungi family, and acts as a direct substitute for meat, being a good source of protein, low in fat and high in fibre.
Premier said it had increased advertising and launched new products following the acquisition.
As a result of Quorn, Premier said first half sales in its convenience foods, pickles, sauces and meat free division were expected to be significantly ahead of the same period in 2005.
Growth in Branston and Loyd Grossman also helped offset lower sales of its smaller brands and convenience foods.
In spreads, desserts and beverages, Premier said sales were strongly ahead of the £132 million seen in in the first half last year.
The company added: "We are pleased by the strong growth of Ambrosia, which has been driven by the launch of new products and growth of snacking formats, and new own label contracts."
The company said on May 2 it was thinking about buying part of either United Biscuits or the UK businesses owned by Campbell Soup.
UBS analyst Polly Barclay said a scenario involving Campbell's would be good for Premier's earnings and cash-flow, as would an acquisition of United Biscuits, depending on the price paid and management's reasons for buying.