One of Scotland’s leading vegetable growers and processors – Kettle Produce – plunged into the red last year.
The latest accounts for the Fife-headquartered company, which is one of the largest suppliers of fresh produce to the UK supermarket trade, show a pre-tax loss of £1.9 million in the year to May 30, 2020. This is down from a pre-tax profit of £2.34m the year before.
The accounts, filed with Companies House, also show an 8% increase in turnover in the year to £148.7m, from £137.7m previously. The bulk of sales – £147.45m – were in the UK, while sales to Europe increased by 30% to £1.24m, from £955,000 the year before.
In her report accompanying the accounts, Kettle Produce company secretary and finance director Liz Waugh said the greater part of the year was dominated by reduced operating margins as a result of competitive pressures.
“During the last quarter the Covid-19 pandemic had a major impact on consumer trends and this in turn provided mixed fortunes for the operating sites,” added Ms Waugh.
“Sales of traditional vegetables were strong as the population adapted to lockdown and homeworking, whilst the converse was true for the convenience meals and hospitality sector. The business sites supplying the former performed well but the demise of the business-to-business adversely affected the remaining sites.”
She said the company had invested in all of its sites to ensure social distancing and enhanced hygiene standards during the pandemic. It suffered a Covid-19 among staff at one of its sites in September last year.
“Looking forward to the new financial year, the ongoing pandemic will continue to dominate the trading landscape both in terms of product mix and exceptional operating costs associated with the day-to-day Covid-19 challenges,” added Ms Waugh.
“In addition it is unknown how the supply change out with Europe will be affected following Brexit. As a consequence, the board is mindfully cautious regarding the financial position for 2021.”
The accounts reveal the company employed an average of 1,362 members of staff in the year – this is up from 1,254 the year before. They also reveal the highest paid un-named director took home a pay cheque of £213,000 – down from £226,00 previously.
Kettle operates two sites in Fife – one at its base at Balmalcolm Farm, Cupar, and another two miles away at Orkie – and one at Barrowcliffes, near Nottingham. It also operates a Spanish division.
The company grows a range of vegetables including carrot, swede, parsnip, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce and spring greens. It also produces prepared vegetable products.