Tate & Lyle saw ‘limited’ coronavirus hit in March

Sugar giant Tate & Lyle has said coronavirus had little impact on its trading in March, and it expects to show a strong set of annual results later this month.

The company’s results for the financial year ending March 31 will be slightly ahead of guidance, it told shareholders.

“Trading in March showed limited impact from the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said in an update to shareholders on Monday.

But things have changed since.

“The lockdowns in place in many countries across the world throughout April, most notably in our largest markets of the US and Europe, have led to some significant changes in demand patterns for our products,” Tate & Lyle said.

Early in the month, demand for ingredients which are used in packaged food and food stored on shelves was high as European and North American customers stocked up.

However, as the month dragged on, the shutdown of the economy and the service sector hit demand for products eaten by customers outside of the home, Tate & Lyle said.

The company sold 26% less bulk sweetener, as bars, cinemas, restaurants and sporting evens were shut down.

Meanwhile sales of industrial starch was down 9% as offices and schools needed less paper and packaging.

“I am delighted with our performance over the last financial year and the progress we are making executing our strategy and living our purpose,” said chief executive Nick Hampton.

He added: “I am also very proud of the way we have responded to the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19.

“From the outset of the pandemic, our priority has been to look after our employees and local communities, keep our operations running and support our customers.

“The fact that all our manufacturing facilities have remained fully operational during the pandemic and customer orders have continued to be fulfilled, often at very short notice, is a testament to the commitment and skill of all our employees.

“Tate & Lyle is a resilient business that meets challenges head-on.

“I am confident that with the strength of our portfolio, people and operating capabilities, we will navigate this period successfully and that our future prospects remain strong.”