Bestway Wholesale has announced a drop in pre-tax profits of more than 50% amid “difficult business conditions”.

Pre-tax profits fell from £44.6m to £19.7m in the year ending 30 June 2016, while turnover dipped 1.1% to £2.17bn.

The wholesaler said the profit decline was driven by a “conscious decision” to invest in margin to support independent retailers, and by investment in Foodservice and its Symbol Club.

It also blamed declining profit and turnover on food price deflation, intense competition and changing consumer habits which had adversely impacted the wholesale sector.

Zameer Choudrey, Bestway Group chief executive, said: “2016 has been a year of consolidation for the Group. Despite difficult business conditions in the UK, we have maintained our market share across the Wholesale and Pharmacy businesses.

“During the year, Well Pharmacy was fully separated from The Co-operative Group and it is now a standalone business, thus eliminating a key business risk.”