A key challenge for Kerry Group will be to meet ever-changing tastes and trends among consumers, chief executive Stan McCarthy yesterday told the food giant’s AGM, in Tralee.
Kerry, a world leader in food ingredients and flavour technologies, had sales of €5.8bn, in 2014, yielding a 4.1% profit rise to €636m.
Mr McCarthy said the group was set to benefit from the recovering economy, but had to ensure it met the requirements of today’s consumers in terms of clean label, nutrition, health, snacking, and convenience.
The modern consumer is increasingly going online, with a 20% jump in internet shopping noted, a trend that is going to continue.
“A serious change has been taking place at consumer level,” Mr McCarthy told shareholders at the AGM. “People are better informed, have more information than ever before and expect more from large organisations.”
Mr McCarthy said conditions in the group’s primary consumer markets in Ireland and the UK remained highly competitive due to increased market fragmentation and changing consumer trends favouring convenience and the growth of discount outlets.
Replying to questions from the floor, Mr McCarthy said he was “very excited” about expansion in the growing Indian economy and the Asia-Pacific region, where the group has a 30% growth target by 2017.
He said changes in government in India, in recent years, bode well for the group’s strategy. The group has a technical/innovation centre, in Bangalore — described by Mr McCarthy as a mini-version of their centre in Co Kildare — and a small production facility in Mumbai.
Also yesterday, in an interim statement for the first quarter of 2015, the group reported a 2.5% increase in business volumes, with ingredients and flavours up by almost 3% and consumer foods by 1.4%.
The group said that it had made a good start in maintaining the positive momentum of late 2014. Market conditions in the UK and Irish consumer foods sectors had broadly stabilised, it added.
In Ireland, the relaunched Denny gold medal sausage brand has continued to perform well and Charleville cheese achieved good growth in the quarter, while Cheesestrings and the Yollies children’s yoghurt snack continued to claim market share.
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