Bernard Matthews boss to stand down

Bernard Matthews has announced his intention to stand down as director of the Norfolk company he founded in 1950.

Matthews will retire as the director of Bernard Matthews Farms’ holding board after his 80th birthday in January. He will remain chairman of the recently established supervisory board, which represents the interests of the company’s shareholders.

The announcement came as Bernard Matthews Farms released its full-year results for 2008, which signal some recovery from the losses made in 2007 as a result of the outbreak H5N1 avian flu at one of its farms.

The company made an operating profit of £857,000 in 2008, a considerable improvement from the £9.6m operating losses suffered in 2007. Loss before tax was reduced to £4.4m, compared to £77.2m the year before.

Bernard Matthews’ Group chief executive Noel Bartram attributed the small growth in profits to the company’s turnaround strategy in the UK, which has included a complete redesign and relaunch of the Bernard Matthews Farms brand and a move to 100% British turkey for all Bernard Matthews Farms branded turkey products.

“The strategy that the management is implementing has started to bear fruit against the backdrop of a challenging retail environment and higher input costs,” he said.

“In 2008 we went back to our agricultural roots, focusing on British turkey farming and providing quality, great-tasting and affordable food. This, combined with initiatives to reduce operating costs, means we are now well positioned to concentrate on building upon the strengths of the business and accelerating the recovery that is already under way.”

Bartram admitted that the trading environment remains difficult, with consumers continuing to be cautious, but said that sales in the current financial year are “steady” and that Christmas orders “are looking as strong as ever”.

Looking ahead, the company said it would focus on championing turkey as a healthy meat and promoting greater turkey consumption. “With consumption of turkey in the UK being a third of that in the US and less than half of that in France, Germany and Italy, there is significant potential for growth,” it said.