Belfast Telegraph

Ancient grains and snail face cream take Holland and Barrett to new heights

Demand for the latest health and beauty crazes including coconut oil and snail gel face cream helped Holland & Barrett notch up a hike in annual earnings and its seventh straight year of rising sales.

The health food chain grew like-for-like sales in the UK by 10.4% and by 7% across its worldwide operations in the 12 months to the end of last September, while it has since achieved its 28th quarter in a row of comparable store sales growth.

H&B said best-sellers in the year included a range of coconut products, including coconut flour, jam and sugar.

Snail gel cream, which boasts a range of anti-aging and antioxidant benefits, was another top seller, alongside manuka honey, popular for its anti-bacterial and medicinal uses.

H&B said so-called ancient grains also made a comeback, with amaranth, teff and freekeh becoming the "new quinoa".

The Nuneaton-based business posted a 12.2% rise in underlying earnings to £146 million for the past financial year.

It took another step towards its aim for £1 billion in global sales by 2010, posting an 11.7% rise in revenues to £573.8 million thanks to international expansion and surging online sales.

It invested £50 million in the business over the last financial year, opening another 55 locations worldwide and rolling out new technology to help boost online trade.

H&B said online sales rose 27.5%, while those via mobiles more than doubled - up 127%.

The group has more than 770 stores in the UK and over 1,070 worldwide, spanning The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and China.

As part of expansion aims, it is also investing in new warehousing in Dublin to help increase business in Ireland, as well as new overseas markets such as Scandinavia, while it is doubling the size of its head office in Nuneaton.

Founded in 1870 as a grocery and clothing store, H&B International was bought in 1997 by US health group NBTY, which is now owned by buyout firm Carlyle Private Equity.

Christian Keen, chief financial officer for Holland & Barrett International, said: "We have set ourselves a challenging target to become a £1 billion business by 2020, drawing on plans for further international growth and our ability to leverage our position as part of the NBTY Group."