United Natural: Sales Steady

United Natural Foods here last week said it has not seen any indications of trading down by consumers in its core natural and organic product business despite the concerns over the economy and rising prices, and despite indications from Whole Foods' results that such customers were cutting back. I would describe the quarter as well as the period after the quarter as very consistent,

DAYVILLE, Conn. — United Natural Foods here last week said it has not seen any indications of trading down by consumers in its core natural and organic product business despite the concerns over the economy and rising prices, and despite indications from Whole Foods' results that such customers were cutting back.

“I would describe the quarter as well as the period after the quarter as very consistent,” said Michael Funk, president and chief executive officer at the natural food wholesaler, in response to an analyst's question during a conference call discussing third-quarter results. “We haven't seen any noticeable changes in sales either total or by our channels.”

The company also posted net income for its third quarter that beat analysts' expectations, and it reaffirmed its guidance for the year.

Net income for the three-month third quarter, which ended April 26, was $13 million, down slightly from year-ago results of $13.7 million. Sales were up 21%, to $154.4 million, excluding the results of the Millbrook Distribution acquisition last November. Through three quarters, net income fell 3.7%, to $35.7 million, on a sales gain of about 20%, to $2.45 billion.

The earnings surprise for the quarter was “more a case of results exceeding beaten-down expectations,” wrote Simeon Gutman, an analyst with Goldman Sachs, in a report.