Though Kerry Group plc is not implicated in the horsemeat scandal, it has had an impact on sales of some of its frozen products, especially those containing processed beef, according to group chief executive Stan McCarthy.
Performance in the cheese slices category also reflected the decline in burger sales, he told the food giant’s AGM yesterday.
Pointing out that the group was chiefly involved in the manufacture of ingredients and flavourings, Mr McCarthy said frozen beef products accounted for a very small part of its overall operations.
He added that there were signs of a gradual recovery in sales of frozen meals “week by week’’.
Overall, he reported a year of solid growth for the group, in 2012, with sales up by 10.3% to €5.8bn, profits up 10.8% to €555m, adjusted earnings per share up 11.3% to 237.6 cent, and the dividend per share up 11.2% to 35.8 cent.
Kerry Group now sells thousands of products in 140 countries and has manufacturing operations in 24 countries.
Upwards of 150 shareholders attended the AGM in Tralee, and were satisfied with the performance.
However, one shareholder accused the group of letting down the youth of Kerry by deciding to build its new €100m technology and innovation centre near Naas, Co Kildare.
He asked for a show of hands from those in the room who supported his view, but only one person raised a hand. The group has already pointed out that proximity to Dublin Airport to facilitate incoming customers was a key factor in the Kildare location, where 850 will be employed.
Mr McCarthy said it had to be recognised that Kerry Group must grow its business internationally.
“It was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision for the future of our business. We had to do what we had to do,’’ he said of choosing Kildare.
Mr McCarthy said the group was committed to maintaining its corporate headquarters in Tralee and its processing plant in Listowel, adding that €3m would shortly be spent on refurbishing the Tralee office complex.
The group employs about 1,000 in Kerry and has invested over €100m in facilities in Listowel, Charleville, and Newmarket, both in Co Cork, in recent years.
In relation to global expansion, Mr McCarthy expects further acquisitions in developing and emerging markets. The group has full-time mergers and acquisitions staff in key locations.
The Asia/Pacific markets, which saw an 8% rise in business, are seen as offering opportunities for more growth, with the nutritional sector in China being especially encouraging.
Closer to home, the group is a market leader in consumer foods such as sausages, rashers, cheese and dairy spreads, cooked meats, ready meals, and children’s snacks in Ireland and Britain.
The group, meanwhile, is assisting farmers in the fodder crisis, importing an average of 10 truckloads per day from Britain and is also looking at France as a source of food for livestock
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