Factory staff at Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods have been thanked by the business for helping it meet exceptional demand during the coronavirus outbreak.

Every factory worker has been awarded two additional days’ annual leave, a £250 cash bonus and a hamper of products to recognise their “tremendous resilience” over the past four weeks.

Premier said its manufacturing and distribution operations were working at maximum capacity following a dramatic short-term peak in volumes across many of its categories during March.

The company reported that its hygiene standards had been strengthened over the past few weeks, and that it was undertaking further risk assessment of every manufacturing line to identify extra measures that could be taken, such as installing screens on some production lines.

In a trading update for the 52 weeks ended 28 March 2020, the company said it was coping well with increased demand, and that customer service levels continued to be high.

The biggest spikes in demand have been for Premier’s grocery products, such as Batchelors, Nissin, cooking sauces, Bisto, Oxo and Ambrosia.

“The group also takes its responsibility as a major UK food manufacturer very seriously and is working closely with its customers to ensure maximum availability of its product ranges for consumers,” stated Premier.

As a result of the impact of coronavirus, group sales were up 10.5% year-on-year in March, and up 3.6% for the quarter. In the UK specifically, sales were expected to have increased around 7.3% in the fourth quarter and 15.1% in March.

The company said volumes had started to fall from the exceptional levels seen in March, although they were still expected to continue to be higher than average patterns of demand.

Premier also announced a shake-up of its pension schemes, merging all the schemes under one trust. It said the key benefit of this agreement was that once the RHM pension scheme executed a buyout, a surplus would be passed to the remaining schemes in deficit to improve the funding position of these schemes.

The group’s preliminary results for the 52 weeks ended 28 March 2020 are expected to be released on 14 May 2020.