Newspaper article The Canadian Press

George Weston Bets on Healthy, Indulgent Foods as It Reports $180-Million Q1 Profit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

George Weston Bets on Healthy, Indulgent Foods as It Reports $180-Million Q1 Profit

Article excerpt

George Weston betting on healthy, indulgent foods

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TORONTO - George Weston Ltd. is investing in two contradicting areas of growing consumer demand for its bakery division -- healthier baked goods and indulgent foods.

Luc Mongeau, president of the food processing and grocery company's Weston Foods bakery business, said Tuesday it is working on innovation in its artisan and alternative bread products, and recently built organic production capabilities into its Kitchener, Ont. facility.

But Weston Foods is also focusing on goods of the less-healthy variety amid surging demand for products such as donuts.

"We are innovating in indulgent product," Mongeau said on a conference call discussing George Weston's latest quarterly results. "There is a strong demand for product that delivers greater indulgence, and we are benefiting and growing in these areas with our portfolio."

The bread industry has been under pressure in recent years as consumers look for healthier or artisan versions of the food staple, while also grappling with increased competition from discount retailers.

Mongeau's comments on growing demand for certain segments came as George Weston raised its dividend and reported a first-quarter profit of $180 million. The company says it will now pay a dividend on its common shares of 49 cents per share, up from 45.5 cents.

The increase came as George Weston reported its profit attributable to common shareholders amounted to $1.40 per diluted share. That was up from $108 million or 84 cents per diluted share in the same quarter last year.

However, on an adjusted basis, which excludes a number of one-time items, George Weston says it earned $178 million or $1.38 per share compared with $184 million or $1.43 per share a year ago.

Sales in the quarter totalled $10.74 billion, down from $10.80 billion in the same quarter last year. Weston Foods' adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the quarter slipped to $44 million, down 27.9 per cent compared to a year earlier.

Galen G. Weston, who is chairman and CEO of George Weston, said the quarter was "marked by significant headwinds. …

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