LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — Shares of the Hain Celestial Group, Inc. tumbled to a five-year low May 8 after the company cut its full-year forecast. The maker of BluePrint juices and Earth’s Best baby food is taking “clear and consequent actions” to address continued weakness within its U.S. business as prior efforts failed to produce expected results in the recent quarter, executives said during an earnings call.
Segment operating profit for Hain Celestial United States in the third quarter ended March 31 plummeted 44% from the year-ago period to $25 million, as higher marketing investments and increased freight and commodity costs more than offset savings from the company’s Project Terra productivity initiatives. Net sales declined 3% to $281.1 million, driven by the strategic decision to exit lower-margin stock-keeping units. Other factors contributing to the decrease in U.S. sales included distribution losses for brands including The Greek Gods yogurt, Rudi’s Organic Bakery products and Sensible Portions snacks, as well as lower sales of Spectrum coconut oil due to continued category declines.
“While we’re not pleased with the rate of our improvement, we have made incremental progress in key areas of our business,” said Gary W. Tickle, chief executive officer of North America. “Our core strategic priorities remain unchanged. We are doubling down on our efforts to, firstly, simplify our portfolio; secondly, reduce cost and complexity and mitigate the cost of headwinds; and thirdly, focus on our core 11 brands and top 500 s.k.u.s.”
The company has added approximately 430 additional s.k.u.s to the chopping block for a total of 1,100 s.k.u.s to be phased out of the portfolio by the end of fiscal year 2019, Mr. Tickle said.
“Near term, it will take time for us to work through further planned s.k.u. optimization; however, we believe these actions will result in a higher quality, more profitable U.S. portfolio that will be better positioned to drive sustainable growth,” he said.
The company recently announced plans to divest Hain Pure Protein, an organic fresh poultry business in the United States. Management expects to complete the sale process during the first half of fiscal 2019 and excluded the business from its reported third-quarter results from continuing operations.
Consolidated net income in the third quarter ended March 31 was $12,686,000, equal to 12c per share on the common stock, down sharply from $31,328,000, or 32c, in the year-ago period. Net sales advanced 8% to $632,720,000 from $588,798,000.
The top-line growth was driven by continued strength in international markets, including the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada and emerging markets, including India and the Middle East. Net sales increased 19% for Hain Celestial United Kingdom and 15% for the rest of the world to $238.3 million and $113.3 million, respectively.
“At Hain Celestial, we’ve consistently done a phenomenal job of maintaining a strong balance sheet while other companies are leveraging up with debt to achieve growth through acquisitions,” said Irwin D. Simon, founder, president and c.e.o. “We believe we’re making the right strategic changes and investments in our go-to-market strategy with particular emphasis in the U.S. to support the shifting consumer purchasing dynamics and evolving retail landscape.”
Of the struggling U.S. business, Mr. Simon added, “We remain committed to the four-point plan, which includes investing in our top brands and capabilities to grow globally; delivering on Project Terra cost savings and productivity; enhancing our leadership team to deliver on the strategic plan; and last, but of course, not least, returning value to Hain Celestial’s shareholders.”