Turnover and staff numbers up at Armagh agri-food leader Avondale
A Co Armagh food firm that supplies some of the UK's biggest supermarkets expanded its workforce by 10% last year.
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New accounts for Avondale Foods revealed that despite pre-tax profits dipping 42% to £2.6m for the year to March 31, 2018, turnover rose 1.5% to £51.5m.
The Lurgan company specialises in wet salads, such as coleslaw and potato.
It also makes side salads, salad meals, vegetable accompaniments, porridges, soups, and dressings. Customers include Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.
The accounts outline a period of sustained growth for the firm.
It significantly increased its workforce to 443 over the 2017/18 financial year, recruiting 41 new production staff.
The report said that 2017/18 had been a year of major investment.
"This financial year has seen the continuation of a significant investment regime in the company, increasing capacity and making ready for new product opportunities in line with the company's strategic goals," it states.
The directors said they expect further growth this year through a combination of product development, product efficiency and building key customer relationships.
Last July Avondale announced a deal with Asda to produce 20 lines of the supermarket's 'own brand' salads.
At the time it said the move would create up to 60 jobs.
The new staff for the year to March 31, 2018 resulted in workforce-related costs rising from £9.5m to £10.6m, with the new production workers pushing the firm's wage bill up by £1m.
It also revealed how £433,255 was paid out in remuneration to the company's directors.
But the report does not detail any dividend paid out for 2018, unlike 2017, when a £2.9m sum was recommended.
Avondale benefited from £1.2m in government grants during 2017/18.
Founded by brothers Harry and Derek Geddis in 1965, Avondale Foods has become one of our biggest agri-food success stories.
In the past five decades the business has gone from selling vegetables grown on the family farm to local markets and shops, to stocking UK supermarket giants.
The products made in Lurgan bear the Country Kitchen label, as well as 'own-brand' labels for the likes of Asda and Tesco.