Business

Belfast food and drink firm SHS Group performs 'above expectations'

SHS Group distributes some of the best known brands in food and drink

FOOD and drink company SHS Group has reported rising turnover and profits.

The firm - the largest family owned food business in Northern Ireland - saw a 1 per cent rise in sales to £379.4 million in 2015 while operating profits increased 23.6 per cent to £21.1m.

The Belfast-based company owns several household name brands such as WKD alcopops, Shloer and Merrydown cider.

Directors of the business, owned by the Salters and Sloan families, said the results were "above expectation".

In their strategic report filed with annual accounts at Companies House, they said: "In 2015, the group continued to invest in its brands of WKD, Shloer, Bottlegreen, Merrydown Cider and Maguire & Patterson matches and the sales and marketing division successfully gained new business and continued to invest in providing the best service offering to its current brand owners."

They added: "The directors consider that in light of prevailing economic and market conditions, both the results for the period and the prospects for the future are satisfactory."

The firm grew average staff numbers to 764 in 2015 (against 758 the year before) pushing its overall wage costs to £29.1m.

Directors' total pay reached £1.3m with the highest paid receiving £466,500.

Regularly ranked as one of the north's most profitable companies, SHS was founded by Joe Sloan and the late Geoffrey Salters in 1975.

It began as an agent for Colgate/Palmolive and now has four divisions, with a portfolio of products ranging from rice pudding and cider to spring water and condiments.

It trades primarily in Ireland and Britain and is still controlled by the founders' families.

The company's greatest success to date is WKD, which it describes as a "premium packaged spirit".

Sales of the alcopop, launched in the mid-1990s, helped the group build a substantial war chest, enabling it to make a number of acquisitions.

In 2010 SHS bought a majority shareholding in Gloucester-based Bottlegreen Holdings Limited for a reported £25m.

Operating from headquarters in the Belfast harbour estate, SHS's other premium brands include Farmlea while it distributes a portfolio of well known brands such as Jordans, Ryvita, Nivea, Finish and Mars Drinks.

SHS Group is also the largest private label supplier of herbs and spices & wet condiments and a major supplier of milk puddings in Britain.

Earlier this year, it was included in the top 10 family firms in Northrn Ireland in the first such list produced by Harbinson Mulholland Chartered Accountants and the Ulster University Business School.

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