CENTER STORE

Smart Balance announces quarterly results

BY Allison Cerra

PARAMUS, N.J. Smart Balance, Inc. announced Thursday its results for the second quarter ended June 30.

The Company reported net sales of $58.2 million, an increase of 21.2% versus year ago, and earnings per share of $0.02, versus a loss of $0.02 per share in 2008. The second-quarter net sales increase versus 2008 was due to a 13% volume growth in case shipments and higher pricing carried over from the prior year. The improvement in earnings per share was due to increased gross profits and lower financing-related costs, partially offset by higher operating expenses.

The company increased market share in its core category of spreads by 1.2 points to 14.8% in the second quarter versus the same quarter in 2008, representing the 30(th) consecutive quarter of market share growth, according to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) data.

Gross profit margin for the quarter improved 48.6%, versus 41.4% for the second quarter 2008, due to lower commodity costs and higher pricing carried over from 2008, partially offset by higher promotion expenses.

The company paid down debt by $5.0 million during the quarter, bringing total long-term debt to $64.5 million. The Company has reduced debt by $95.5 million, or 60%, since the acquisition of GFA Brands in May, 2007, and expects to continue to pay down debt this year.

The company expects approximately 10% volume growth in case shipments in the second half of 2009, with plans that include launching a Smart Balance sour cream to add to the company’s presence in the dairy aisle.

“In a quarter where competitive intensity increased, I am pleased with our continued share growth in our core category of spreads,” said Stephen B. Hughes, Smart Balance chairman and CEO. “Consumers have learned that Smart Balance is the company to trust to always deliver the heart healthiest, best tasting spread in the marketplace.”

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Survey: Americans seek simpler solutions to interpreting the nutrition facts panel, identifying healthy foods

BY Allison Cerra

SCARBOROUGH, Maine A new survey from Guiding Stars, the world’s first storewide nutrition navigation system, found that two-thirds (67%) of Americans are only somewhat confident, at best, they can select healthy foods from the Nutrition Facts Panel.

While nutrition is top-of-mind for many Americans, many are not using the Nutrition Facts Panel to its full potential. In fact, the survey found that 74% of people find the Nutrition Facts Panel to be either “exhausting to read” (28%), “difficult to understand” (24%), “not helpful” (11%) or “something to ignore” (11%). While the Nutrition Facts Panel is essential to help shoppers identify the nutrients in packaged foods, many Americans seek easier-to-use tools that can help them quickly identify nutritious options.

According to the survey, 1-in-4 Americans would prefer a good-better-best rating of nutritional value, in their supermarket. Guiding Stars’ nutrition navigation system rates each food item with zero-to-three stars based on the nutrition value obtained from the Nutrition Facts Panel. It eliminates the need to compare every food item in the store, serving as a simple, easy-to-understand tool to help shoppers quickly identify more nutritious foods as they shop, the company said.

The system credits all edible foods based on the presence of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and debits for the presence of trans fat, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium. Food items are then awarded zero, one, two or three stars ¬ one star means good nutritional value; two stars, better nutritional value; and three stars, the best nutritional value.

“Our research shows that there’s a need in the marketplace for a simpler solution to help identify healthier food choices,” said John Eldredge, director of brand and business development at Guiding Stars Licensing Co. “Guiding Stars offers this solution by interpreting the Nutrition Facts Panel to help shoppers more easily identify foods that offer the most nutrition for the calories, and make it easier than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

The Guiding Stars system was first implemented in select grocery stores in September 2006. The Guiding Stars program is now on shelf tags and signage in grocery stores throughout the East Coast and recently launched the first nutrition navigation system in a public school and college.

KelloggsDRSNhttp://www.centerstoregrowth.com

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PepsiCo reaches final round of merger agreements with Pepsi Bottling Group, PepsiAmericas

BY Anna Mcgrath

PURCHASE, N.Y. PepsiCo announced it has almost completed the merger agreements with The Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas to acquire all of the outstanding shares of common stock it does not already own in its two largest anchor bottlers.

PepsiCo will be acquiring approximately $7.8 billion total value of shares and will create one of the largest food and beverage companies globally. Due to higher cost efficiency and improved revenue opportunities, the company combination  will create annual pre-tax synergies of $300 million by 2012.

“Over the past nine years, PepsiAmericas and each of our employees have helped build a remarkable organization. The success we have achieved is reflected in the agreement reached with PepsiCo. This agreement provides great value to our shareholders and an opportunity for them to participate in the unique potential of this combination. Bringing together these three great companies is bold and strategically innovative, and will create a system unmatched in our industry,” said PepsiAmericas chairman and CEO Robert C. Pohlad.

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