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Lindt, Callebaut post strong sales figures

BY Tara Smith

ZURICH Swiss chocolate makers Lindt & Spruengli and Barry Callebaut today are posting strong sales figures as both benefit from a growing taste for premium-quality products.

Full-year sales at Lindt & Spruengli, whose products include Lindor pralines and gold-wrapped Easter bunnies, are expected to rise 14 percent to $2.68 billion, thanks to buoyant demand in the United States and Britain. The group has benefited from increased consumer spending on indulgence foods and has tapped into a growing appetite for premium and dark chocolate, noting strong demand for its Creation 70 Percent and Excellence products.

Analysts expect the group’s sales figures to put a stop to the downward trend seen in its shares, which have lost some 15 percent this year amid fears the United States is heading toward a recession. The company said a U.S. slowdown would likely have only a limited impact on the chocolate market.

Meanwhile, shares in Barry Callebaut have shed only around 3.6 percent of the 42 percent gained in 2007 as investors appreciate the company’s clear business prospects. The world’s largest chocolate maker is expected to post an 8 percent rise in first-quarter sales to 1.34 billion francs, boosted by a trend among the largest food companies to outsource chocolate production as a result of soaring prices for ingredients. Barry Callebaut has won contracts from Nestle, Cadbury and Hershey Co. and the group has said this trend looks set to continue.

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Kraft Foods expands contract with DHL

BY Tara Smith

PLANTATION, Fla. DHL announced Tuesday that Kraft Foods has renewed and expanded its contract with DHL as its primary U.S. express carrier.

DHL will provide U.S. express shipping services for Kraft Foods. The express carrier has also been chosen by Kraft Foods as a provider for U.S. ground delivery and international express services for Kraft’s letters and small package shipments, including delivery of food product samples, point-of-sale advertising, inter-office documents and payroll, and product-sampling items for Kraft vendors, plants, distribution centers and its corporate offices.

“Kraft has been a valued partner for nearly 20 years,” said Charles Brewer, executive vice president of sales. “We are seeing many of the largest multi-national companies enhance their operations by leveraging DHL’s flexibility, customer-focused commitment and ongoing U.S. network enhancements.”

Founded in San Francisco in 1969, DHL generated worldwide revenues of $80 billion in 2006.

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Giant Eagle invests in own products; reopens former LeNature’s plant

BY Tara Smith

PITTSBURGH Bottled water is being produced again at the former LeNature’s plant in Latrobe, Pa., thanks in part to Giant Eagle—and the new owners expect to add flavored water, iced teas and even soft drinks.

Currently the plant is producing Giant Eagle-labeled “Purified Water,” which is being shipped to area Giant Eagle stores. The plant plans to produce other bottled drinks for Giant Eagle, which comprises ready-made market of 158 corporate, 65 franchises and 138 convenience stores in the Pittsburgh region, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland and owns 1 percent of the operation, before branching out to outside customers.

The beverage plant had closed in November 2006, when LeNature’s was forced into bankruptcy. Giant Eagle bought the plant and its state-of-the-art bottling equipment for $22.3 million in September in a bankruptcy court auction, having outbid Cadbury Schweppes. Manufacturing its own products is a new direction for Giant Eagle, the region’s dominant grocer, moving from a competitive business to a more competitive field.

The 300,000-square-foot plant will make flavored waters by the end of the month, iced tea brewed from tea leaves in mid-February and carbonated soft drinks in March, according to Charley Price, company president. The company has not decided yet which flavors it will produce, Price said.

To bring the plant into full production, the company expects to spend about $4 million for clean-up, repairing and recommissioning the equipment, plus adding a line for soft drinks, Price said. He believes that, with the equipment on hand, running 24 hours per day, seven days a week, the plant could make nine million bottles of beverages per year.

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