Gist blamed one-off pension costs and retailers’ squeezing of supply chain providers for a 23% fall in pre-tax profit last year, but it still saw turnover rise by 7.2%.

For the year ended 31 December 2011 pre-tax profit fell to just under £18.8m, from £24.5m the previous year. However, turnover rose 7.2% year-on-year from £379m to £406m.

Gist chief executive Martin Gwynn told “Business performance remains robust. Excluding the effect of the one-off pension charges, profit increased year-on-year despite margin pressure.”

Margins deteriorated during the year “as retailers continued to squeeze supply chain providers during these tough economic times”, said Gist’s directors in their annual statement. There was also a one-off charge during 2011 of £16.5m in respect of exit arrangements from the BOC UK pension schemes.

Gist continued to expand during the financial year and won a number of contracts – including one with Starbucks to consolidate its ambient, chilled and dairy deliveries across the UK and Ireland; and another five-year deal with food firm Tulip for regional distribution of raw and finished pork products.