Premium products such as the Blackgate Signature joint and steak range and the gluten free Chef’s Larder gourmet fries selection were among initiatives that helped take total sales to £5.3bn, a rise of 6.7%, figures for the 52 weeks to March 24 revealed.
Like-for-like sales for caterers were up 4.4% and annual pre-tax profits jumped 15% to £174 million.
The group, which owns Ritter-Courivaud, Chef Direct, Budgens, Londis, Premier and Family Shopper, attributed the success to a continued focus on developing the business and listening to customers' needs.
Stuart Hyslop, managing director of the group’s catering and small business division, gave Blackgate, a British and Irish sourced farm assured product introduced last year, as an example and cited it as a ‘resounding success’, predominantly with pubs.
“This [Blackgate] was really in response to them asking for a way to make more money from their menus, give them a product that they can name on their menu and charge a little bit more for. It just offers a great opportunity for caterers to premiumise that menu and charge a little bit more.”
Elsewhere, sales of Booker’s Chefs Essentials chips, a basic core catering ingredient which costs 6.8p per portion, rose by 31%, while its straight cut Chef’s larder – at 8.6p per potion – saw an uplift of 9%.
Hyslop added that gluten free was no longer just a trend, but a daily request in establishments that the business viewed as key.
Sales of its Chef’s Larder Premium chip selection – a three-strong gluten free range including super-crisp skin on gourmet fries, French fries and chunky gourmet chips – jumped by 84%.
Gluten free sausages have recently been introduced for the first time.
Despite rising food costs, chief executive Charles Wilson said the group had managed to reduce prices on a number of ingredients including baked beans, chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise and sausages under its Chef’s Essentials banner.
This had been achieved by ‘increased scale’ and ‘working with suppliers to offset price increases’, he said.
“Booker Group had another good year,” he continued. “Our plan to focus, drive and broaden the business remains on track. Customer satisfaction was strong and sales profits were the best we have ever achieved.”
He added that the planned merger with Tesco would “deliver significant benefits for consumers, Booker customers, suppliers, colleagues and shareholders.”