The news comes as the company revealed its preliminary results for the year ending 28 March 2020, which include only three weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Group revenue was up 2.8% to £847.1m, with trading profit increased by 3.2% to £132.6m. It reduced net debt by £62m.
Alex Whitehouse, chief executive officer of Premier Foods, said: “This points to a business that is in a very different place today than it was a few years ago.”
He revealed that the company had remained fully operational during the coronavirus pandemic and hired more than 100 new people to cope with the increased demand.
The company, he said, moved early to ensure the safety of its production facilities and had no plans to change its safety protocols after the Government moved its social distancing policy to one metre-plus yesterday.
“Because we acted quickly, we have remained fully operational,” he said.
“We operate food factories so, as you would expect, our hygiene standards are already pretty strict, but we felt as though some additional measures would be beneficial. So we acted quite quickly at the beginning of March and put in some additional measures to keep our teams safe on-site.”
Speaking during a media briefing on the company’s preliminary results, Whitehouse said that, while it had seen a “handful” of coronavirus cases among staff, there had been no significant concentration anywhere.
No furlough funding
Whitehouse said that the company had a number of shielded individuals and had continued to pay those people in full.
“We have taken the view that the Government furlough fund is really appropriate for businesses that are struggling and we are not one of those. So we will not be taking any furlough funding and we have self-funded that cost,”he said.
As people have been increasingly cooking at home, the company has seen sales of its baking mixes “go through the roof”, while cooking sauces, Bisto and Oxo have also enjoyed increased sales.
On the future of the market, Whitehouse said he was confident that Premier Foods could weather any future recession.
“We know from past recessions that we tend to be relatively resilient. Most of our products are quite low-priced from the shelf,” he said.
“We know that, when people come under economic pressure, one of the things that goes is going out for a meal at the weekend. And what that tends to do, therefore, is push people back into our type of products in supermarkets.”