“Earthbound’s organic packaged salads, which account for most of its business, continued to see strong uptake this past quarter with high teens volume growth,” Gregg Engles, chairman and chief executive officer of WhiteWave Foods, said May 8 in an earnings conference call.
For the total packaged salad category, organic’s share was up 3% for the first quarter over last year, reaching 24% according to WhiteWave. Earthbound has a 56% share of branded organic packaged salads.
“We are very pleased with Earthbound’s first quarter of results within WhiteWave, and we’re on track to deliver at least the 7 cents (earnings per share) accretion that we expected for 2014,” Engles said. “We remain enthused about the growth opportunities that lie ahead for our fresh food platform.”
The latest addition to Earthbound’s product line — PowerMeal Bowls, organic salad meal kits – is still developing, Engles said, but results have tracked well against initial targets. Moreover, sales of its frozen produce doubled for the quarter.
WhiteWave acquired the San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based organic grower-shipper for $600 million in cash.
Kevin Yost, Earthbound Farm president, said the company profited from a consumer trend toward organic and from its own habits.
“We had a very strong start to the year on the top line,” Yost said. “There are tail winds in this category, as you know.”
“I think we’re seeing the benefits of some hard work in our segmentation, where we’re working with retailers on best in class merchandising sets and assortments,” he said. “Retailers moving to that model are replacing lower velocity items with higher velocity items. So you’re seeing the benefits not only of distribution but of velocity.”
WhiteWave’s other brands include Silk, Alpro, Horizon Organic, International Delight and Land O Lakes. The company has a focus on plant-based beverages, coffee creamers and dairy. It reported sales and earnings growth in all areas.
Compared to last year, North American sales were up 39% for the quarter with Earthbound’s results included. Not counting Earthbound, it was a 10% increase.
WhiteWave’s growth came not just in sales, but on the bottom line. Earnings per share, excluding costs of a dairy joint venture in China that’s still developing, rose 40% to 22 cents per share in the quarter. That slightly exceeded the high end of a prior forecast.
One factor driving WhiteWave’s results is a growing market for almond milk products in Europe. European sales were up 24% for the quarter.
WhiteWave’s net sales for the quarter were $830 million, up 36% from $608 million last year.