OAK BROOK, ILL. — A focus on improved efficiency and execution benefited TreeHouse Foods, Inc., during the first quarter of fiscal 2021. Facing difficult pantry-stocking comparisons from the year prior, the company was able to generate a profit during the quarter.

Net income for the period ended March 31 was $1.5 million, equal to 1¢ per share on the common stock. The results are an improvement compared to the same period last year when TreeHouse Foods recorded a loss of $31.2 million.

Quarterly sales fell 2.5% to $1.06 billion.

“We were up against a tough comp given the unprecedented pantry loading we saw a year ago as we entered the shelter-in-place,” said Steven T. Oakland, president and chief executive officer, during a May 6 call with securities analysts. “Against all of that, we delivered a solid first quarter.”

Meal Preparation business unit sales rose less than 1% to $678.5 million during the quarter. The December acquisition of some Riviana Foods brands contributed $40 million and offset the comparison to last year’s COVID-related demand surge, according to the company.

Operating income as a percentage of business unit sales fell less than 1%. The decrease was attributed to lower volume from reduced COVID-19 pandemic demand, increased operational costs due severe winter weather in certain regions of the United States, commodity inflation, and higher freight costs.

Snacking & Beverages unit sales fell 8% to $379 million. The change was due to decreased retail demand and lower volume/mix due to divestitures, according to the company. Operating income as a percentage of net sales fell less than 1% and was affected by the decreased demand as well as higher freight costs.

The company reaffirmed its full-year 2021 guidance ranges of adjusted earnings per share between $2.80 and $3.20 and sales between $4.4 billion and $4.6 billion.

Commodity inflation remains a challenging issue for the company, but Mr. Oakland said, “I think the macro environment is so well understood by everybody in the chain, whether it be our customers, our vendors (or) our partners … We would not have reaffirmed our year had we not felt that way.”