The week in food: quarterly results, salt reduction

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 4th May 2010

The industry saw a raft of quarterly results this week from Unilever, Safeway Inc, Kellogg, Chiquita and Premier Foods plc, among others. Unilever CEO Paul Polman adopted a typically cautious tone, despite an acceleration in sales and volumes, while Safeway CEO Steve Burd remained more upbeat on profits despite a tumble. Sodium reduction once again appeared on the menu as the CSPI hit out at US companies that have not yet joined the New York initiative to cut salt, while Kraft and Heinz both pledged targets for mayor Michael Bloomberg’s programme. Here is a selection of who said what about the top stories in the food sector this week.

“As they say in Dutch, don’t smoke too much pot. Stay realistic” – Unilever CEO Paul Polman urges investors not to get too carried away with the company’s first-quarter performance.

“We figured that our competitors would have a go back at us – and that’s happened” – Premier Foods plc chief executive Robert Schofield revealed that the company’s bread rivals had bread had taken aim at the Hovis maker.

“While our China business continues to be the largest contributor to our revenue growth, it was just one of 10 major markets in Asia and Latin America to report double-digit gains” – Mead Johnson president and CEO Stephen Golsby emphasises the baby food maker’s buoyant businesses around the world.

“Our base was [also] hurt by consumers buying more on deal and SKU rationalisation. In general terms we’d like to see our base get better and we would like to see that in the second half” – Kellogg chief executive David Mackay admits the company’s cereral sales had suffered in the first quarter.

“While I’m glad that 16 companies have chosen to participate in the initiative, too many companies – including giants such as PepsiCo, ConAgra, McDonald’s, and Burger King – have chosen to skip it. The limited participation indicates the need for federal health agencies to set mandatory national limits on the amount of sodium allowed in packaged and restaurant food” – Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson hits out at US food makers that have not joined the New York initiative to cut salt.

“We believe the targets and timing proposed by New York City can not realistically be achieved in all of our product categories and still meet consumers’ demand for great-tasting foods” – Dr. Chor-San Khoo, senior science fellow, Campbell Soup Co.’s Science Affairs explains why the soup maker had opted not to join the New York salt initiative.

“We were pretty confident that we would see inflation in cost of goods… but because we’re still in a relatively slow economy, we have not been able to immediately pass on those cost increases in the form of higher retails” – Safeway executive chairman, CEO and president Steve Burd predicts it will be able to pass higher costs along to consumers through price hikes.

“Bi-Lo will emerge from bankruptcy financially stronger, with less debt, and as a more competitive company in the marketplace” – Michael Byars, president and CEO of Bi-Lo indicates it will emerge from bankruptcy in May.

“With the marketing investment we are also increasing not only investment in North America but in Europe where we have a long track record of supporting the brand and the brand premium” – Chiquita Brands International chairman and CEO Fernando Aguirre talks about expanding its existing product platform into new geographies and channels.

“The key advantage that we see is that we are combining the perishable offering to the grocery products that we sell to health food stores” – Wessanen CFO Frans Eelkman Rooda talks about the purchase of local organic business Kroon.

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