Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Healthier Foods Helping Sobeys Boost Bottom Line in Recent Results: Executive

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Healthier Foods Helping Sobeys Boost Bottom Line in Recent Results: Executive

Article excerpt

Healthy, quick meals helping boost Sobeys


The chief executive of Empire Co. Ltd. says he's counting on Canadians' desire to buy healthier foods to help keep profits rolling in for the firm's Sobeys Inc. supermarket chain.

Marc Poulin said healthier and easy-to-prepare food products introduced into the supermarket chain over the past year are part of the reason for the recent profit jump at the stores.

Canadians are changing their outlook on food, Poulin said Thursday.

"They truly understand with the obesity problem we have ... they clearly understand there is something broken in the relationship Canadians have with food," he said in an interview after the company's annual shareholders meeting.

"They have decided we are going to be the ones helping them in a transition."

Poulin, who became Empire's CEO as well as chief executive of Sobeys in January, said some examples of new programs in stores include a greater variety of breads, pre-marinated meats, and meals that replace home cooking.

He declined to quantify how much the specific programs are adding to revenues.

However, results released on Wednesday say same-store sales, at locations open at least a year, were up 1.3 per cent despite a market that has become fiercely competitive.

Poulin's comments came the day after the Nova Scotia-based firm, which has one of Canada's largest grocery chains, announced a net profit of $123.1 million or $1.33 for quarter from May 4 to Aug. 2 this year.

Empire's adjusted net earnings, which are more closely watched by analysts, were $131.7 million or $1.43 per share, well ahead of the average of estimate of $1.35 per share.

Revenue in the three months to Aug. 2 rose to $6.22 billion, up from just under $4.6 billion in the prior-year period -- in line with estimates -- mostly because of additional Safeway Canada stores in a $5.8 billion transaction that closed in November.

The profit for the latest quarter was a turn-around from the fourth-quarter ended May 3, when net income dropped to $800,000, or a penny per diluted share, as the company recognized at $169. …

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