MONTERREY, MEXICO — A shift toward more value-added products, part of the company’s broader “evolution” of its retail channel, contributed to income and sales gains within the Gruma USA unit of Monterrey-based Gruma SAB de CV in the first quarter of fiscal 2021.

“The enhancement of growth at our Super Soft and more particularly, at our Carb Balance segment, which has shown double-digit growth over the last two years in the US, has convinced us that the trend that started with the familiarity of the tortilla as a healthy and versatile product for all cultures’ diet and the preference of value-added products has remained and expected to keep increasing over the time even in a post-pandemic market,” Raul Cavazos Morales, chief financial officer, said during an April 22 conference call with analysts. “Meanwhile, globally, the foodservice channel continues with a slow-paced recovery toward pre-pandemic levels, at which point we will see the great benefit of having a strong retail base, coupled with returning growth from the foodservice business, which is already almost to being at pre-pandemic levels again.”

Operating income at Gruma USA in the first quarter ended March 31 totaled 1.78 billion pesos ($89.86 million), up 1% from 1.77 billion pesos in the same period a year ago.

Sales volume at Gruma USA fell 3% in the first quarter, but because of the company’s shift toward value-added products net sales increased 3% to 12.75 billion pesos ($643.07 million) from 12.36 billion pesos.

Gruma said operating margin at Gruma USA fell 30 basis points during the first quarter to 14%. Meanwhile, cost of sales as a percentage of net sales improved to 56.5% from 57% in the first quarter, resulting mostly from a shift to the tortilla business, Gruma said.

“We are pleased with our performance for the quarter, as it underscores a positive evolution of our retail channel, which, as you know, is part of our overall strategy,” Mr. Cavazos Morales said.

Part of that evolution includes branching out into new retail products, which Mission Foods, a subsidiary of Gruma SAB de CV, did earlier this month with the introduction of Fresh Signature, a new line of flatbread, naan, pita and roti products that will be available in the Northeast this month and nationwide by later this year.

The six new products are prepared in Mission’s proprietary stone oven and include: Mission Fresh Signature Naan, Mission Fresh Signature Mini Naan, Mission Fresh Signature Flatbread, Mission Fresh Signature Pita: Original, Mission Fresh Signature Pita: Whole Wheat, and Mission Fresh Signature Roti.

Gruma said it incurred $43 million in capital expenditures during the first quarter. During the quarter, the company allocated expenditures to capacity expansions at a tortilla plant in Malaysia; renovations and maintenance to prepare for the re-opening of a tortilla plant in Omaha, Neb.; advances in construction of a new tortilla plant in Indiana; transportation and distribution equipment in Mexico; and maintenance and general technology upgrades across the company.

Overall, majority net income at Gruma SAB de CV in the first quarter was 1.32 billion pesos, up sharply from 562 million pesos a year ago. EBITDA was 3.47 billion pesos, down 1% from 3.51 billion pesos, while sales rose 3% to 22.18 billion pesos from 21.54 billion pesos.