THOMASVILLE, GA. — Sales volume at Flowers Foods, Inc., in the first quarter ended April 25 declined by 0.9% from the same period a year earlier while the company’s consolidated gross margin widened by 50 basis points. The sales decline reflected a decline in the company’s private label sales. Earnings during the quarter were nearly flat.

Net income of Flowers Foods in the first quarter was $61,389,000, or 29c per share on the common stock, up 0.5% from $61,066,000, or 29c per share, in the same quarter in fiscal 2014. Net sales were $1,146,045,000, down 0.7%.

Allen L. Shiver, president and c.e.o. of Flowers Foods.

Allen L. Shiver, president and chief executive officer, described the results in the second quarter as evidence of progress toward profitable growth. Sales of higher margin branded and food service products, favorable ingredient costs and improved manufacturing efficiencies helped widen margins, he said.

EBITDA in the company’s D.S.D. segment was $134.4 million, up 2.1% from $131.6 million in the same quarter last year. Sales were $966.2 million, up 0.3%. Branded sales were up 1% while store brand sales slid 10%.

While sales were nearly flat in the segment, Mr. Shiver was upbeat about what the results suggested for the future.

“Going forward, I expect that our focus on growing our branded sales will result in long-term value creation,” he said.

Warehouse segment EBITDA in the first quarter was $21.1 million, up 12% from $18.8 million the year before. Sales were $179.9 million, down 5.7% from $190.8 million. Branded retail sales in the quarter were down 1.8% while private label sales fell 10%.

“In our Warehouse Delivery (Warehouse) segment, we continued to improve our mix of business,” he said. “Compared to the year-ago quarter, sales declined 5.7%. This decline was driven primarily by volume losses in our store-branded snack cake business and our exit from the non-retail tortilla business in the third quarter of fiscal 2014.We have taken steps over the past few months to considerably improve the profitability of this segment. Warehouse segment EBITDA increased 12.3% to $21.1 million, and EBITDA margins increased to 11.7% of segment sales, as compared to the prior year EBITDA margin of 9.8%.”

Flowers reaffirmed sales guidance for fiscal 2015 of $3,786 million to $3,861 million and earnings per share of 96c of $1.01.

 “So far, we are encouraged with the results we are seeing in the second quarter, and we are looking forward to what’s ahead in fiscal 2015,” he said. “We have some new business wins coming on line and, relative to last year, we see lower input costs and higher manufacturing efficiencies. To support growth in our expansion markets, we’ll be opening our new bakery in Lenexa, Kas., this summer. To grow sales in our core markets we are introducing new products under our Cobblestone Bread Company and Tastykake brands. Through a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions, we expect to achieve our long-term goals and deliver value to shareholders.”

In a conference call early May 28, Mr. Shiver said the company’s exit from private label business represented a major headwind for the company during the quarter. Looking forward beyond 2015, though, he said the company sees “a long runway for growth.” Among reasons for optimism, he said overall bread pricing was up 1.1% in the first quarter.

Additional coverage of the conference call will be forthcoming