ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — An increased focus on operating efficiencies helped drive a 2.8% increase in operating profit within the Food North America segment of Aryzta AG in the first half ended Jan. 31. Profit in the division, which includes the La Brea Bakery and Otis Spunkmeyer businesses, totaled €35,271,000 ($48,445,000), while sales fell 2.7% to €254,700,000 ($349,830,000).

“Food North America has experienced revenue weakness across most channels compared with last year but this is against a high comparator of 16.6% growth in the prior year,” Aryzta said. “There are no signs of any significant consumer recovery in the U.S. with consumers continuing to conserve their dollars and customers not making decisions required to stimulate revenue growth.”

On a companywide basis, Aryzta underlying profit in the first half of fiscal 2010 was €73,754,000 ($101,323,000), up 1.1% from the first half of fiscal 2009. Sales fell 7% to €800,900,000 ($1,100,520,000).

“The global economic recovery has yet to reach consumers who continue to adjust their patterns of spending in response to tough economic conditions,” said Owen Killian, chief executive officer of Aryzta. “Credit availability remains difficult for many customers who need to maintain and develop their consumer-facing investment. Those customers who have adapted to the conditions and who offer a satisfying consumer experience by using ‘freshly baked’ throughout the dayparts demonstrate the resilience of the business.

“Bakery offers excellent food value for consumers, and Aryzta remains committed to developing customer relationships and delivery channels that enhance the consumer experience.”

Aryzta was created in August 2008 from the merger of IAWS Group P.L.C. and Hiestand AG. Aryzta is a specialty baking company. Its largest division is in Europe, accounting for more than 80% of sales.

Aryzta also is the majority shareholder in Origin Enterprises P.L.C., which focuses on the Agri-Nutrition sector in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Poland.