TORONTO — Operating income for the Weston Foods division of George Weston Ltd. was C$19 million ($19.7 million) in the first quarter ended March 26, down 55% from C$42 million in the same period of fiscal 2010. Net sales were C$410 million ($426 million), up 6% from C$385 million a year ago.

George Weston said fresh bakery sales fell approximately 3% in the first quarter compared with the same period in 2010, mainly driven by lower sales volumes.

“Volume decreased due to lower sales of private label and certain other products,” Weston said. “These volume declines were partially offset by growth in the Country Harvest and D’Italiano brands. The introduction of new products, such as Country Harvest Ancient Grains, Country Harvest Raisin Cinnamon with Whole Wheat, Wonder+ SimplyFree, Jake’s Bake House, and Gadoua MultiGo Flat Bagels, contributed positively to branded sales growth in the first quarter of 2011.”

Frozen bakery sales increased approximately 32.6% in the first quarter, mainly due to the acquisition of Keystone and ACE. Excluding these acquisitions, frozen bakery sales increased by approximately 1.5%, primarily due to higher sales volumes.

“The increase in volume was due to increases in certain product categories, partially offset by the negative impact of the timing of customer orders related to the Easter holiday, which shifted sales into the second quarter of 2011,” Weston said.

Biscuit sales, principally wafers, ice-cream cones, cookies and crackers, decreased approximately 2.8% in the first quarter of 2011. The volume declines were driven by lower cone and cup sales partially offset by growth in Girl Scout cookie sales in the first quarter of 2011.

Overall, net income at George Weston rose 90% in the first quarter to C$165 million ($171.6 million), equal to C$0.74 per share on the common stock, up from C$87 million, or C$0.21 per share, in the same period of fiscal 2010. Sales fell to C$7,148 million ($7,434 million) from C$7,164 million.