Cuts on dessert menu

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Generally accepted accounting principles

Cuts on dessert menu
Job losses will help Minsterley back into the black, says Uniq

A new shift pattern along with rationalisation of the product range and job cuts will help the troubled Minsterley desserts factory move back into the black in 2007, promised the owner Uniq.

Speaking as the chilled convenience group unveiled a sharp rise in operating profit in the first half of 2006/07, Uniq's chief executive Geoff Eaton said that he was confident that recent measures could reduce losses at Minsterley.

Those measures have included slashing operating hours from 24 a day to just 12 and moves to radically boost productivity.

Eaton said: "This has dramatically reduced overheads, while productivity and machine efficiency have gone up. We've got better transparency on costs after bedding in new IT systems and real accountability at local level now.

"The waste figures are improving and we're getting rid of low volume, unprofitable lines."

He declined to comment on how many job losses there might be as a result of the new shift pattern, but added that some of the £1.7M earmarked for Minsterley's recovery would go on redundancy payments.

Promotions that did not deliver profit would be axed, while customers that had not accepted recent price increases had been "resigned", he said.

The company, which recently sold its French spreads business to Dairy Crest and its Belgian salads business to the investment group Gilde, had raised enough cash to plug its £85.2M pension deficit and invest in growth and recovery plans, said Eaton.

Uniq made a £1.5M pre-tax profit (compared to a £2.2M loss in the same period last year) on flat sales of £406.3M in the six months to September 30, boosted by price increases and cost cutting.

Commenting on the interim results, the Investec analyst Nicola Mallard said: "If you believe the current management is capable of turning this operation around - with UK evidence supportive so far, in our view - then there is clearly significant upside potential in profits."

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