BRITAIN‘S BEST-known turkey producer has reported a bumper 2003 turnover of £436m, according to reports in the Eastern Daily Press.

Accounts filed at Companies House showed profits at Bernard Matthews climbed to £47.2m, up nearly 10% on the year before.

Although UK turkey production and its associated food products still dominate group sales, an increasing slice of revenue came from overseas interests.

UK and western European production accounted for £350m of group sales in 2003, up £26m on the previous year, while sales elsewhere in the world grew £17m to £121m.

The Great Witchingham-based business operates in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, owns German cooked meats brand Bartsch and processes lambs in New Zealand.

7045 people now work for Bernard Matthews, over 4000 of whom are based at its East Anglia sites.

Marketing Director Andy Watts said Christmas sales were up 17% year on year, with turkey crowns – the breast joint without the legs –proving the top performer.

“Consumers are trading up for the Special Meal of the year, and crowns are the favoured product, particularly with added trimmings such as bacon, stuffing and fruits,” he said.

“We introduced a new free range frozen turkey this year, plus new range of joints, such as lattice and bacon topped, which proved very popular.

“Looking at the figures, consumers are picking turkey over other meats, which is good news for the whole British turkey industry.”

The British Turkey Sector Group said that 10m turkeys were reared for Christmas last year, with consumers prepared to pay more for them than in 2003.

The Group‘s campaign to promote British birds paid off and there are plans to extend it with a view to bolstering all year round turkey sales, said chairman Kim Burgess.