Brain Food: Behind the spin

THE DILEMMA

It's tough times for Northern Foods, the creator of Goodfella's pizza, Pork Farms pies and Fox's biscuits. The manufacturer, which supplies ready meals and branded nosh to Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrison's, is fighting a war on two fronts. First, the changing tastebuds of British consumers, who are abandoning sugary treats; second, the retailers themselves, who are tightening supply chains and reducing margins where they can. Northern's new CEO Pat O'Driscoll is trying to stop the rot, and her strategy centres on cost-cutting and selling off operations. The company's latest trading update said profits for the half-year to end-September would be 'in line with the board's expectations', despite a decline in underlying sales of 1.1%.

THE SPIN

Says O'Driscoll: 'Although achieving a step change in business performance will take time, our key improvement programmes are progressing well and successful delivery will see us emerge as a more focused and competitive business, with a strong emphasis on driving value ... It's early days, but I'm confident we'll turn this business around.'

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