CHICAGO – Conagra Brands, Inc. continues to benefit from consumers shopping at retail and eating at home. Sales of the company’s frozen, snack and center-store brands continued to rise during the second quarter of fiscal year ended Nov. 29, 2020.

“We continue to build on our momentum, and our Q2 results exceeded our expectations across the board,” said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer, during a Jan. 7 conference call with securities analysts to discuss the results.

Net income for the quarter rose 45% to $379 million.

Quarterly sales rose 6% to $2.995 billion from $2.82 billion the year prior.

“Total Conagra retail sales grew 10.4% year-over-year with strong growth across each of our snacks, frozen and staples portfolios,” Mr. Connolly said. “Total Conagra household penetration grew 14 basis points versus a year ago, and our category share increased 26 basis points.”

Sales for Conagra’s Grocery & Snacks business unit rose 13% during the quarter to $1.3 billion. The company attributed the increase to elevated levels of at-home eating and replenishment of retailer inventories. Segment operating profit increased 20% to $316 million.

Mr. Connolly emphasized that Conagra’s line of staple products, primarily products sold in the center of the store, include such brands as Hunt’s, Pam and Rotel, enjoyed another strong quarter.

“Historically, this portfolio has served as a source of cash for us, but it hasn’t been looked at as a growth engine,” he said. “Our basket of the total staples category grew retail sales by 12.7% in the second quarter. People are returning to their kitchens during the pandemic and new younger consumers are discovering the joy of cooking.

“People are returning to their kitchens during the pandemic and new younger consumers are discovering the joy of cooking.”  – Sean Connolly, Conagra Brands

“So, a lot of our staple products, be it products like Hunt’s tomato, Rotel, our salsa business or our dressing businesses, these are businesses that are playing a meaningful role during the pandemic, and we believe, because of some of the demographic tailwinds, will continue at an elevated level post-pandemic.”

Refrigerated & Frozen segment sales rose 7% to $1.2 billion during the quarter. Business unit operating profit surged 41% to $264 million. Tailwinds benefiting the business included supply chain productivity and cost synergies associated with the acquisition of Pinnacle Foods in 2019.

Total frozen retail sales grew 8% during the quarter and were propelled by Conagra’s Birds Eye frozen vegetables business. Supply chain constraints had been a drag on the Birds Eye business, but with those issues resolved brand performance accelerated, according to the company.

“In addition to strong retail sales growth of 7.2% in the quarter, Birds Eye gained an impressive 261 basis points of share from Q1 to Q2,” Mr. Connolly said.

International unit sales rose 7% during the quarter to $250 million. The sales increase was attributed to sales growth in both Canada and Mexico.

Foodservice sales decreased 23% to $212 million. Items affecting performance included lower restaurant traffic and the impact of some divested businesses.

Management declined to issue full-year guidance, but did say it expects third-quarter organic net sales growth in the range of 6% to 8% and adjusted earnings per share between 56¢ to 60¢.

Conagra Brands net income for the first six months of fiscal 2021 rose 63% to $708 million. Sales for the period rose 9% to $5.67 billion.