Price competition hits food firms’ revenue

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Walkers Shortbread

Two of Scotland’s best-known food firms – Walkers and Lees – have announced profits reflecting volatile prices.

Walker’s Shortbread published accounts which showed both the boost from exports but also rising import costs.

It also warned that fierce price competition in the UK market, particularly for own-brand contracts, will continue to squeeze its margins.

Revenue at the Aberlour firm was down slightly from £139.3m to £138.7m, with 42% of that from exports.

Pre-tax profits for the calendar year 2016 rose from £11.9m to £12.9m.

The family firm employs an average of 1,460 people, boosting production in the peak season before Christmas to more than 1,750.

With a £31m wage bill, that makes it a major contributor to the rural economy. The top-earning director, according to accounts filed with Companies House, had earnings of £955,000.

‘Considerable uncertainty’

The accounts said that “sluggish European growth, the rise of “populism” with its protectionist rhetoric and the subdued rate of growth in trade generally during 2016 were worrying trends for businesses.

“However, the fall in the value of sterling will undoubtedly be of benefit in the medium to long term,” the report added.

“That said, the impact of the UK decision to leave the European Union in 2019 with all that means for our ability to trade with Europe and to draw upon a wider pool of labour is a source of considerable uncertainty.”

Meanwhile, Lee’s bakery in Coatbridge published accounts for 2016 showing a dip in revenue and profits.

The maker of snowballs, macaroons, teacakes and meringues reported revenue down from more than £20m to £19m, and pre-tax profits were down from £1.3m to £1.15m.

That was from continuing operations, after stripping out the figures for Waverley Bakery, which was sold early last year.

The accounts stated that demand for its products dipped in a disappointing summer last year, particularly for meringues.

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