Specialty Foods unit lifts Lancaster profit

by Eric Schroeder
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COLUMBUS, OHIO — Improved results within its Specialty Foods unit spurred higher sales and earnings at Lancaster Colony Corp. in fiscal 2010. Net income in the year ended June 30 totaled $114,969,000, equal to $4.08 per share on the common stock, up 29% from $89,086,000, or $3.17 per share, in fiscal 2009. Net sales in the year rose to $1,056,608,000 from $1,051,491,000.

“For the year, we achieved record operating income and net income, with meaningful bottom-line improvement in both operating segments,” said John B. Gerlach Jr., chairman and chief executive officer. “Better Specialty Foods results led this increase as we enjoyed higher retail sales volumes and lower average material costs despite higher consumer marketing and trade promotional investments.”

The maker of New York garlic bread, Texas Garlic Toast, Sister Schubert’s frozen bread and Marzetti dips and dressings posted operating income within its Specialty Foods division of $176,194,000 in fiscal 2010, up 21% from $145,848,000 in fiscal 2009. Net sales in the division totaled $893,256,000, down from $909,897,000.

For the fourth quarter ended June 30, overall net income at Lancaster fell 20% to $22,815,000, or 81c per share, from $28,401,000, or $1.01 per share. Net sales eased to $248,005,000 from $253,385,000. Within the Specialty Foods unit, operating income in the fourth quarter fell 18% to $38,194,000 from $46,798,000, while sales eased 4% to $217,345,000 from $226,824,000.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2011, Mr. Gerlach said Lancaster is well-positioned within food, with balance sheet flexibility and future growth potential expected from new product development and greater geographic penetration.

“New Specialty Foods retail products include Marzetti Otria Greek yogurt-based vegetable dips, New York Brand Ciabatta garlic loaf, and Sister Schubert’s soft multi-grain frozen rolls,” he said. “We believe that sales growth is achievable in fiscal 2011, but our earnings optimism is tempered by economic hurdles faced by consumers, planned expansion of marketing activities, rising paraffin wax costs and potentially higher food commodity and packaging costs.”

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