ATCHISON, KAN. — A diverse customer mix helped drive strong operating income and sales within the ingredients business of MGP Ingredients, Inc. in the third quarter, boosting overall sales and earnings at the company in the period.

Net income at MGP Ingredients increased 26% in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, climbing to $10.31 million, equal to 61¢ per share on the common stock, up from $8.16 million, or 48¢ per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales also increased, rising to $102.96 million from $90.69 million.

Gross profit in the Ingredient Solutions segment increased 103% to $5.9 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2020, or 27.4% of segment sales, compared with $2.9 million, or 16.6% of segment sales in the third quarter of 2019, while sales increased 23% to $21.3 million.

“The continued strength of our Ingredient Solutions segment and its diverse customer mix are reflected in the strong results this quarter,” David J. Colo, president and chief executive officer, said during an Oct. 29 conference call with analysts. “The team has made admirable progress this year to expand the Specialty Ingredient customer base and includes repeat and new customers as well as brands, both large and small. In addition to recognizing efficiencies to improve throughput and profitability, we were also successful in continuing to optimize our product mix this quarter.

“Consumer trends seeking to increase the amount of plant-based protein and dietary fiber in their diets as part of an overall healthier lifestyle continue to align well with our ingredient product portfolio and underscore our confidence in the sustainability of these improved results going forward.”

Mr. Colo said interest in MGPI’s ingredient solution products has ranged “across the broad spectrum and type of customers,” which he said is preferred rather than being reliant on just a handful of customers.

“So overall, we’re selling to a diverse group of customers that also have a diverse product mix that’s utilizing these specialty proteins and starches,” he said. “So pretty good demand we’re seeing across the board in all different types of customers.”