Roberts Bakery - three branded wrapped loaves   2100x1400

Source: Roberts Bakery

Roberts Bakery reported sales growth of 8% in its latest financial results, despite a year marred by a major fire at its Northwich site in Cheshire.

The bakery manufacturer said it had also been successful in growing its market share significantly by focussing on strategic customer partnerships and product innovation.

A filing of its annual report to 25 August 2023 on Companies House, made by parent company Frank Roberts & Sons, reported turnover was up to £96m from £88.9m the previous year.

Margins impacted by elevated grain and energy prices in FY22, which had resulted in an £2.5m EBITDA loss, had since been improved to allow an almost breakeven EBITDA outcome (£200k loss). Roberts Bakery’s managing director Bill Thurston, who was appointed to the leadership role during the financial period, noted that the company’s EBITDA performance was set to be further improved in 2025.

He praised the “resilience of all staff” in helping keep Roberts’ third bakery line and biscuit factory functioning in the immediate aftermath of the Northwich fire in June 2023. “Within days of the incident, the Morning Goods line was reopened, leaving two bakery lines in need of repair and refurbishment,” Thurston commented.

A major shake-up of the Roberts Bakery business followed, with its Little Treats biscuits production relocated to a new ‘Centre of Excellence’ four miles away to Winsford. The Northwich site was redeveloped to create a Centre of Excellence for bread, while its factory over in Ilkeston continued to focus on speciality breads and had won new contracts for 2024 and 2025, revealed Thurston.

Among the new products recently rolled out by the supplier include Italian-style ciabattas, paninis, and rolls, as highlighted in British Baker’s recent report on the top bread brands’ tactics for 2024.

Roberts Bakery  toast soldier dipped in runny egg  2100x1400

Source: Roberts Bakery

Last year’s fire caused the company to breach covenants on its £18m loan, provided by Wells Fargo Capital in 2022, with all bank borrowings classified as current liabilities at the year-end date. Wells Fargo subsequently confirmed that no further action would be taken as a result of the breach.

Roberts noted that, had this been confirmed before the year end date of 26 August 2023, £5.25m of the loan would have been classified as long-term debt, which would have seen it disclose net current assets of £2.9m instead of a £2.3m liability in its latest financial statement. Net current assets of £3.6m were declared the previous year.

The company admitted its funding and liquidity structure had been reduced by lenders as a result of the fire, but confirmed an invoice financing facility would increase as it brought production lines back into usage. This is expected to take place on a phased basis from this month (June 2024) to September, it said.

“Understandably, the operating result for last year was seriously affected,” noted the MD. “However, with the support from our extremely loyal customers, staff, and other stakeholders the business is poised to fully reopen and return to full supply with our quality and capacity levels restored to the high levels enjoyed before the fire”.

Own-label bakery supplier David Wood Baking is also recovering from a major fire, which ripped through one of its production sites in Dudley last September. It has since secured a substantial credit facility to help it bounce back.