A major investment strategy at Gist helped off-set the negative pull of a “challenging” UK food market last year and boost sales by 9% last year.

However pre-tax profit at the food, networking and contracts logistics specialist fell by 2.7%, largely due to losses made on the disposal of fixed assets and a major fall in the income from shares in group undertakings during the period.

According to the Basingstoke-based firm’s latest annual results to 31 December 2016, Gist saw turnover increase 9% £416.7m (£382.4m) and pre-tax profit fall to £17.7m (2015: £18.2m).

Whilst operating profit at the company rose to £17.5m (2015: £12.8m) due to “improvements within existing business area within contract logistics”, a £437,000 loss on the disposal of fixed assets from a profit of £748,000 in the previous year and a fall in income from shares in group undertakings to £80,000 (£2015: £4.7m) contributed to a reduction in pre-tax profit from £18.2m in 2015 to £17.7m in 2016.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Linde Group, said in its strategic report that it had delivered “significant change” during the year by opening a number of new operating sites, investing “heavily” in growth, securing “significant new business wins” and extending existing contracts.

Rising revenue was also attributed to “changes in the contract basis” within its contract logistics business and to growth within its network business, driven by new customers, and expansion within existing customers, as well as the development of the firm’s global freight offering.

The bulk of sales during the year came from Gist’s UK operation, which delivered £400.4m (2015: £368.8m).

Looking to the future the company, which employs over 4,300 staff across more than 40 operational sites in the UK and continental Europe, said it will continue to focus on growing its supply chain distribution business and expanding its food services proposition.

Earlier this month Gist announced a three-year deal with Arla Foods to provide the transport and warehousing services in Scotland.

The deal follows the opening of Gist’s new facility in Motherwell aimed at growing its temperature-controlled food logistics network.

Gist’s other clients include M&S, Starbucks, Eat, Berry Gardens and Young’s Seafood.

The company had yet to respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.