Avara Foods shrugged off the challenges of the closure of its duck business and the first coronavirus lockdown to post solid financial results for the year to 31 May 2020, its latest accounts have shown.
Despite £5.9m-worth of exceptional costs related to the closure of its Faccenda Foods (Lincs) duck business, the poultry giant saw turnover climb by 5.6% to £1.21bn, with operating profit climbing by 13.5% to £16.1m. Pre-tax profits rose by 14.3% to £15.7m.
The business – which was reporting on its second full year of trading since it was established as a joint venture between Cargill’s UK poultry operation and Faccenda Foods – said its “agility and strong working partnerships with key customers” had helped it weather the storm created by hospitality closures during the first national lockdown.
This came despite a “significant” impact on trade, costs and margins in the final quarter, and the costs linked to its exit from the duck market last April, which was “precipitated by the fragility of the global duck market and further exacerbated by the challenges of Covid-19”.
The supplier said it spent more than £6m on social distancing measures, new PPE and staff recognition payments during the pandemic, alongside continued enhanced absence pay to allow staff to refrain from work if unwell or required to isolate.
Avara also navigated the pandemic without taking advantage of any government schemes or financial assistance programmes, it stressed, as it hailed the “exceptional support from all the company’s employees who, as essential workers, were committed to keeping food supplies moving”.
And despite the challenges of the crisis, the business continued to invest significantly to improve operating efficiencies and increase capacity and volumes, it added. Poultrymeat would continue to be a “key staple of UK shopping baskets” over the year ahead, it said, despite a continuation of turbulence for the food sector this year.
“Our plans remained on-track and we have delivered more value to customers than ever before – a real credit to all those who work at Avara,” said CEO Andy Dawkins.
“In the face of Covid-19, we invested heavily to protect the wellbeing of every single colleague and to ensure the business was stable and resilient. I’m proud of how we have continued to manufacture great products, maintained our high standards and strengthened our customer relationships in these most difficult of times,” he added.
“We anticipate another period of strong growth ahead. As a business we’re agile, ambitious and well-placed to weather the uncertain market conditions created by Brexit and Covid-19.”