United Natural Posts Q3 Profit Gains

United Natural Foods yesterday said expense controls and lower fuel costs helped drive a 29.2% increase in net income for the third quarter.

DAYVILLE, Conn. — United Natural Foods here yesterday said expense controls and lower fuel costs helped drive a 29.2% increase in net income for the third quarter.

The natural-products distributor saw its stock jump more than 11% on the earnings report, in which the company also raised its earnings outlook for the year. Net income totaled $16.8 million on sales of $889.5 million, an increase of 0.3%. Operating expenses as a percent of sales decreased by 35 basis points in the quarter to 15.6%, vs. 15.9% in the third quarter of last year.

The company said sales in the core organic and natural product categories remained sluggish, leading it to focus on efficiencies and expanding sales of its new specialty division, which recently began operating out a of new combined distribution facility in York, Pa.

"While we were optimistic that current sales trends should improve, there has not been any meaningful evidence of change," said Steven Spinner, president and chief executive officer, during a conference call with analysts.

Net income through the first nine months was up 22.4%, to $43.65 million, on sales gains of 6%, to $2.6 billion, compared with year-ago levels.

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