Bakery sales at Northern Foods dipped 5.6% in the first quarter of the year, after promotions were put on hold during the World Cup.

Figures released by the food group show like-for-like bakery sales in the 12 weeks to 3 July suffered in the run-up to the tournament.

The company said that normal promotional activity would continue in Q2 and that margins remained strong. It added: “Our major investment in new automated technology within Fox’s Biscuits is progressing well and this programme is expected to complete early in our 2011/12 financial year.”

Chilled like-for-like sales were up 14.3%, with sandwiches and salads continuing to perform strongly, while overall comparable sales were down 1.6% in the quarter, compared with a drop of 1.8% in the previous three months.

Stefan Barden, Northern Foods chief executive, said: “We expect to see continued challenging trading conditions. We are focused on a range of initiatives to enhance the competitive position of the group and to drive growth, with increased investment in brands, talent and technology in the first half-year. With a strong financial position, Northern Foods remains well-positioned going forward.”