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Kimberly-Clark reports Q1 earnings

BY Allison Cerra

DALLAS Kimberly-Clark reported Wednesday that its net sales for the first quarter ended March 31 decreased 6.6%.

The company disclosed that its earnings per share for the quarter was down 6% to $0.98, compared with $1.04, and adjusted earnings of $1.08 in the prior-year.

“Business conditions in the first quarter proved to be somewhat more challenging than we predicted earlier this year, with significant headwinds from weak global economies and volatile currency fluctuations impacting our results,” said Kimberly-Clark chairman and CEO Thomas Falk. “Despite the difficult environment, we made progress in several areas during the quarter. We continued to pursue our targeted growth initiatives and build our brands. We improved profitability in our Personal Care, Consumer Tissue and Health Care businesses, indicating that our focus on increasing margins is starting to pay off. We delivered continued double-digit organic top-line growth in developing and emerging markets. We also generated strong cash flow, including early benefits from our efforts to improve working capital. While this progress is encouraging, we are not yet where we need to be. We are committed to overcome the challenges facing us and deliver improved bottom-line results.”

The company also said that its organic line of products increased during the quarter, the company delivered double-digit organic sales growth in developing and emerging markets. The company anticipates organic sales growth of 1 to 2%.

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New NPD report reveals rise in private-label usage for products

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO Tough economic times certainly have been a boon for private-label foods and beverages, but according to The NPD Group, a market research company, private-label usage has been growing over the last decade.

According to a new NPD report, “Private Label Perceptions, Usage Patterns & Intentions,” last year, 24% of all food and beverages served in American homes were store brands, up from 18% in 1999. Today, 97% of all households consume private-label foods on a regular basis.

“There is no question that private-label foods have become an integral part of American life,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Furthermore, we do not hide private-label foods as an ingredient or as an additive to another dish. Today over half of all store-brand food eatings are the end dish.”

Price and value are the chief reasons why consumers purchase private-label or store brands, according to an NPD survey of grocery shoppers, but most respondents also feel that the quality of store brands is often equal to, or in some cases better than, name brands. Users of private-label foods and beverages span all income levels and demographic profiles.

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Coca-Cola reports Q1 earnings

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA The Coca-Cola Co. reported a 3% drop in net income, compared with the year-prior period.

Coca-Cola’s net income was approximately $7.17 million, versus nearly $7.38 million during the first quarter 2008. Earnings per share was down 9% to 58 cents per share, from 65 cents per share for the first quarter ended March 28, 2008.

Operating income for the first quarter 2009 decreased 1% on a reported basis, versus the first quarter of 2008. Items impacting comparability reduced first-quarter operating income by $92 million in 2009, and by $85 million in 2008. After considering these items, operating income was even. Excluding the impact of currency, operating income increased 17%, exceeding the company’s currency neutral long-term profit target.

During the quarter, Latin America continued with strong unit case volume growth of 5%, led by a 6% increase in Mexico and a 4% increase in Brazil, as well as continued volume and value share gains in both sparkling and still beverages. Coca-Cola recently launched its “Open Happiness” campaign geared toward the Spanish-speaking community.

Globally, the company gained volume and value share in nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverages for the seventh consecutive quarter, while still beverage unit case volume increased 9% in the quarter, led by strong growth across the portfolio, including juices and juice drinks, sports drinks, teas and water brands. Additionally, international still beverage unit case volume increased 13% in the quarter.

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