Boulder Brands gets fresh with gluten-free
by Jeff Gelski
BOULDER, COLO. — Boulder Brands, Inc. has taken on two tasks in the gluten-free category: expanding the reach of baked food items out of the frozen foods aisle at retail and reducing the need for egg whites in bread production to cut costs.
In the United States the company will begin launching Udi’s baked foods in the ambient bakery section in the second half of the year, said Steve Hughes, chairman, chief executive officer and director, in a May 8 conference call to discuss first-quarter results. Most gluten-free bread currently is sold in the freezer, he said.
“When sold ambient, our sales in bakery are much higher,” he said. “In the case of one major customer, the velocities are 70% higher than our comparable frozen sets.
“This in-store bakery platform will offer variations of current products as well as new items, creating a model for dual placement in the freezer and bakery sections. We believe this is a very big idea, a very big incremental idea.”
Boulder Brands also plans to launch 8 to 12 Udi’s gluten-free entrees, hand-held items and appetizers in the second half of 2014, he said. The company will launch two 12-inch pizzas in the third quarter. In other product news, manufacturing of non-bioengineered Smart Balance spreads has begun.
Work to reduce egg whites in applications relates to cost.
“Higher egg white prices are being driven by demand for healthier breakfast items among mostly quick-serve restaurant chains, which has led to increased consumption of egg white products,” said Jim Leighton, chief operating officer. “As a result, prices have increased nearly threefold from $5 a lb last year to $14 today. We are working with alternate suppliers to find a qualified source of less expensive egg whites.”
Christine Sacco, chief financial officer and treasurer, said reformulating has been shown to reduce the amount of egg whites by 25% on average on products across the board. The reformulation with fewer egg whites should impact the third quarter, she said.
Mr. Hughes said, “I think it’s going to turn out that we’re going to have less reliance on egg whites, and we’re going to have more consistent product, better product, under Udi’s.”
Combined net sales of gluten-free brands Udi’s and Glutino increased by 31% in the first quarter ended March 31, Mr. Hughes said.
In the first quarter, net income for Boulder Brands was $412,000, equal to 1c per share on the common stock, which compared to $3,961,000, or 7c per share, in the previous year’s first quarter. Net sales for Boulder Brands increased 15% to $122,852,000, which compared with $106,653,000 in the previous year’s first quarter.
The company’s Natural segment had first-quarter sales of $73.4 million, up from $49.8 million. The segment includes Udi’s, Glutino and Evol. The Balance segment had first-quarter net sales of $49.5 million, down from $56.9 million. The timing of Easter, which took place in the second quarter this year instead of the first quarter, affected first-quarter results negatively in the Balance segment, which includes Smart Balance, Earth Balance and Level.
For the full year, Boulder Brands continues to expect net sales in the range of $540 million to $550 million. The company updated its adjusted 2014 EBITDA outlook to be in the range of $89 million to $91 million, which compared with a previous outlook of $89 million to $94 million. The 2014 outlook for earnings per share is now in the range of 39c to 41c, which is at the lower end of the previous estimate of 39c to 44c. The change primarily reflects updated estimates for egg white prices for the remainder of 2014.