Speaking as the firm posted a 3.6% rise in full-year operating profit to £54.6m on sales up 1% to £977m yesterday, chief executive Stefan Barden (pictured) said: “The appointment of a chief scientific officer and a small team of scientists to develop our food science and technology strategy offers potential in our ready meals business over the longer-term.
“Working with academia and other partners to develop game-changing protectable technologies could offer Northern Foods a real point of difference in this market, although our developments remain at an early stage.”
Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “We note a clear delight that a first patent has been lodged….We do believe that Northern may be on to something in these respects, we’re just not totally sure quite what.
“The investment in technologists and product/process has yet to deliver meaningful results, but we do continue to harbour some hopes.”
However, restructuring costs arising from the closure and mothballing of factories remained a “considerable and unfortunate feature of the story from an investment perspective”, he added.
“Complexity is never a virtuous feature for a stock and we welcome the day when Northern can report figures that are not encumbered by such ongoing restructuring activities.”