The company, which has divested some of its non-core businesses such as fire fighting chemicals earlier this year as well as surplus sites, is aiming to focus around lower volume, higher added value areas.
It has already grown sales to healthcare and personal sectors from 30 per cent in 1998 to 58 per cent last year. Recently completed expansion of its production facilities, designed to double capacity for plant and marine lipids, will allow the company to boost this sector further.
At £89.5 million (€135.3m), sales to the personal and healthcare markets made up 61 per cent of the group's overall sales, which edged up 2.7 per cent over the prior year's first half to £146.5 million.
"Improvements in mix, helped by a number of new product launches by our Personal Care customers, and price increases, delivered a trading margin of 17.7 per cent (2003; 17.3 per cent) in the core Oleochemical business despite the negative effects of currency and higher raw material prices," commented Croda chairman Anthony Beevor.
This improved operating profit from continuing operations to £23.7 million, 6.7 per cent ahead of the same period last year.
"As we start the second half, underlying demand continues to be firm. We are planning further product launches in the second half and are maintaining good control of costs," added Beevor.
Net debt at the group has been reduced by over £8 million to £20.4 million.