THOMASVILLE, GA. — The integration of Lepage Bakeries in the Northeast and Sara Lee in California combined with substantial sales increases across all channels to propel first-quarter earnings at Flowers Foods, Inc. Net income in the quarter ended April 20 was $113,275,000, equal to 81c per share on the common stock, up sharply from $37,943,000, or 28c per share, in the first quarter of 2012.

Adjusted for a bargain purchase accounting gain and acquisition-related costs, earnings were up 71% to $64,899,000.

Quarterly sales were $1,130,810,000, up 26% from $898,206,000.

Gross margin as a percentage of sales in the quarter was 48.2%, up 150 basis points from 46.7% in the first quarter of 2012. Flowers said the increase was due “primarily to higher sales volumes and decreased workforce-related costs as a per cent of sales.”

Breaking down the 26% sales increase, Flowers said the acquisitions of Lepage Bakeries and Sara Lee/California  accounted for 7.7 points, which helped offset unfavorable net/price mix of 1.1 points. Volume provided a 19.3-point boost, with gains across all channels.

“Increases in soft variety, white bread, buns and rolls, and cake primarily drove volume increases in the branded retail channel,” Flowers said. “The volume increases in the store brand channel were driven by increases in the white bread, buns and rolls, and cake categories. The non-retail channel volume increases were primarily in the food service and vending categories. The unfavorable net price/mix was driven primarily by a mix shift in the cake business.”

George E. Deese, chairman and chief executive officer, added, “We believe the results we reported today reflect the best performance in the company’s history. We achieved substantial sales increases in both segments, across all channels, and in our primary product categories. We also delivered outstanding earnings. Throughout our company, team members performed incredibly well as they worked to serve customers’ needs following Hostess’ departure from the market last fall. Our investments in our bakeries and our distribution systems over several decades, combined with the strength and determination of our team, allowed us to take on new business and meet the needs of existing and new customers.

“This is an exciting time for Flowers Foods as we focus on integrating Lepage Bakeries in the Northeast and Sara Lee in California, while maintaining the gains we have achieved in markets throughout the country in recent months. Looking ahead, we expect to have growth opportunities in our newer markets as customers and consumers gain confidence in Nature’s Own, Tastykake, and our other strong brands.”

In the company’s Direct-Store-Delivery segment, which accounts for 82% of Flowers total sales, first-quarter EBIT was $152,488,000, up 139% from $63,822,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Sales were $922,404,000, up 25% from $737,298,000.

Warehouse Delivery EBIT was $18,660,000, up 94% from $9,594,000. Sales were $208,406,000, up 30% from $160,908,000.

R. Steve Kinsey, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, said Flowers is delaying full-year 2013 guidance until the regulatory review of its pending acquisition of certain Hostess bread assets is complete. But he said the company is “very optimistic about the outlook for fiscal 2013 and, in the second quarter, we are continuing to see very good sales growth.”