MINNEAPOLIS — Investments to expand plant-based capacity continue to pay dividends at SunOpta, Inc. Enhanced ability to meet growing demand for dairy-free options helped the company deliver one of the strongest quarters in its history, said Joe Ennen, chief executive officer.
Production output in SunOpta’s plant-based facilities in the second quarter increased 20% year-over-year and was in line with record output achieved in the first three months of the year. Sales of milk alternatives, which account for two-thirds of the company’s plant-based business, grew 30%.
“Growth in plant-based was exceptionally broad, with nearly every major customer up double digits, every channel up double digits, every product type up double digits and every go-to-market business up double digits,” Mr. Ennen told analysts during an Aug. 10 earnings call. “Drilling into plant-based milks, growth was led by over 40% increases in both almond milk and oat milk, with each having revenues of over $30 million.”
Foodservice sales for the plant-based segment grew 20% while retail sales were up more than 40%. The company’s branded business posted year-over-year gains approaching 40%, with sales of Dream and Sown beverages nearly doubling on the heels of expanded distribution. The co-manufacturing and aggregate ingredients businesses grew 31% and 47%, respectively.
Net income for the second quarter totaled $924,000, equal to 2¢ per share on the common stock, which compared with a loss of $1.7 million in the same period a year ago. Company-wide sales increased 20% to $244 million from $202 million, with 60% of the gain coming from pricing and 40% from volume.
Plant-based food and beverage sales surged 31% to $146 million from $111 million, marking the segment’s 15th consecutive quarter of sales growth. Volume accounted for more than half of the revenue growth, with volume/mix up 17 percentage points and pricing up 14 points.
SunOpta has undertaken a series of capital expansion projects across its plant-based business, adding capacity to its oat processing facility in Minnesota and its beverage production facility in Pennsylvania. The company in April unveiled a new pilot plant and innovation center as part of its new corporate headquarters.
Additional projects to boost capacity are underway. A new line at SunOpta’s plant in Modesto, Calif. will be online this fall. Construction has begun on a second oat extraction facility on the West Coast that will be completed in 2023. A new “mega plant” in Midlothian, Texas — the company’s largest capital expansion project to date — is expected to complete its first saleable production run later this year.
“These investments are needed to double the revenue and profits of our plant-based business,” said Scott E. Huckins, chief financial officer at SunOpta. “We continue to believe we will be rewarded over the next several years for executing these investments in such a challenging environment.”
SunOpta’s fruit-based segment generated sales of $97.6 million, up 7.4% from $90.9 million in the same period a year ago. Sales of fruit snacks surged 48% to $24 million, offsetting lower demand for frozen fruit. The company earlier this year added capacity to its fruit snacks plant in Ontario. Another expansion project in Washington is expected to come online next year.
“Our growth in fruit snacks continues to significantly outpace the broader category trends,” Mr. Ennen said. “The vast majority of that growth is volume-driven… By customer category, growth was broad-based with both large CPG co-manufacturing customers and private label customers showing double-digit increases.”SunOpta updated its full-year outlook to reflect a strong first half of the year. Executives raised revenue guidance to a range of $930 million to $960 million, up from $890 million to $930 million, representing growth of 14% to 18% versus 2021. Adjusted EBITDA guidance increased to a range of $72 million to $78 million, up from $67 million to $75 million, representing growth of 18% to 28%.