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Diamond announces record Q1 results

BY Tara Smith

STOCKTON, Calif. Diamond Foods, a leading branded food company specializing in processing, marketing and distributing snack products, on Monday reported record financial results for its fiscal 2008 first quarter.

Net sales increased 9 percent to $184.5 million for the three months ended Oct. 31, 2007, compared to $169.5 million for the three months ended Oct. 31, 2006. GAAP diluted earnings per share was $0.52 compared to $0.61 for the prior year’s comparable period. EPS for the quarter increased 8 percent compared to the 2007 first quarter non-GAAP EPS of $0.48. Non-GAAP EPS for the prior year excludes a gain of $0.11 per share from the curtailment of a pension plan, and a net gain of $0.02 per share principally related to closing and selling a production facility and consolidating operations in another facility.

The total sales exceeded the target of $170 million to $180 million. Additionally, Diamond’s snack sales in U.S. food stores grew 28 percent during the 12-weeks ended November 4, 2007, 10 times faster than the category, bringing Emerald’s share of the snack nut market to 4.6 percent. Emerald’s share of tree nuts grew to 5.6 percent during this period.

“We are off to a strong start in fiscal 2008,” said Michael J. Mendes, President and chief executive officer. “We were able to successfully increase prices in this high input cost environment, enabling Diamond to beat its estimates while investing in our brands.”

For the three months ending Jan. 31, 2008, Diamond expects net sales of between $130 million and $140 million and an EPS of between $0.12 and $0.17.

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Coca-Cola Enterprises elects Suzanne Labarge director

BY Adam Kraemer

ATLANTA The Coca-Cola Enterprises board of directors has elected Suzanne Labarge as director, the company announced Wednesday.

“Suzanne is an accomplished leader who brings a wealth of risk management and financial experience and expertise to our board of directors,” said Lowry Kline, non-executive chairman of the board. Labarge is the former vice chairman and chief risk officer of RBC Financial Group, where she served in a variety of roles over her 25-year career there. She also served the Canadian government as an assistant auditor-general and as deputy superintendent of policy for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada.

She currently serves on the board of governors for McMaster University, and has previously served as director and chair of the audit committee for Novelis and as a member of the board of the Bank of China in Beijing. Her term on the Coca-Cola board will expire in 2010.

“We look forward to working with her and benefiting from her international perspective and understanding of our business opportunities,” Kline stated.

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Kettle Foods joins 100-calorie pack wave

BY Adam Kraemer

SALEM, Ore. Kettle Foods announced that, starting Jan. 1, its Kettle brand Bakes will be available in 100-calorie packs at retailers nationwide.

The chips, which are made with real potato slices and no artificial ingredients, cholesterol, MSG or trans fats, offer 65 percent less fat than regular potato chips. “With Kettle brand Bakes, snackers don’t have to compromise taste or calorie count when it comes to eating on the run,” said Michelle Peterman, vice president of marketing for Oregon-based Kettle Foods.

Demand for healthier, convenient snacking options has increased significantly in the past year as more Americans seek healthier alternatives for snacking on the go, according to a recent study by Report Buyer. Many major food companies have begun offering normally indulgent foods in portion-controlled sizes, including Oreo, Chips Ahoy and Wheat Thins. “Consumers see it as a good-faith attempt on the part of manufacturers and we’ve seen positive responses for a lot of those products,” said David Morris, senior market research analyst at Mintel International Group.

The single-serving Bakes bags offer about 18 chips per bag, and will retail for about $1.09-$1.39.

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