WESTCHESTER, ILL. — Even against a record first-quarter performance a year ago, earnings and sales at Ingredion, Inc. compared well to start fiscal 2024, said James P. Zallie, president and chief executive officer of the Westchester-based company. Zallie said Ingredion overcame the impact of extreme cold weather that affected US shipments as well as the sale of its business in South Korea to deliver gains in net sales volumes during the quarter.

Net income attributable to Ingredion in the first quarter ended March 31 was $216 million, equal to $3.29 per share on the common stock, up 13% from $191 million, or $2.89 per share, in the same period a year ago. Operating income of $213 million was down 27% from $291 million.

Net sales of $1.88 billion were down 12% from $2.14 billion. The exit from South Korea had a $51 million impact on sales volume, Ingredion said.

The first quarter of fiscal 2024 marked Ingredion’s first reporting as a company organized by production assets and commercial efforts instead of by regions.

Operating income in the Texture & Healthful Solutions division totaled $74 million, down 42% from $127 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales in the division also were lower, falling 10% to $597 million from $665 million.

“We feel increasingly confident regarding volume momentum as we saw strong demand from distributors in the quarter and volumes overall in April were up nicely year-over-year,” Zallie said during a May 8 conference call with analysts. “Also noteworthy, project-related customer engagements in the US are up 60% in quarter 1, which we view as a positive leading indicator of future growth for our Texture & Healthful Solutions segment. We have completed the commissioning of the capacity expansion for our higher-value stevia product lines at our PureCircle facility in Kuala Lumpur to support our sugar reduction franchise growth. Lastly, in terms of a positive indicator of overall economic growth, we have seen a strong demand recovery for industrial starch from paper making and packaging customers in North America.”

In Food & Industrial Ingredients — US/Canada, operating income totaled $87 million, down 5% from $92 million a year ago. Net sales fell 11% to $541 million from $608 million.

In Food & Industrial Ingredients — LATAM, operating income was $101 million, down 17% from $122 million. Net sales eased 8% to $616 million from $667 million.

During the quarter Ingredion launched Cost2Compete, a multiyear cost savings program. Zallie said the program is targeting $50 million in savings by the end of 2025, split evenly between savings from SG&A and savings from cost of goods sold.

“Some of the notable Cost2Compete initiatives include a project we have undertaken to unlock capacity across our manufacturing footprint by applying machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence),” he said. “In addition, we are continuing to optimize our supply chain, distribution and warehouse network in pursuit of service excellence, efficiencies and savings. Lastly, we continue to be encouraged by the results achieved by our centralized procurement team, which has recorded some big wins on freight cost savings through globally-led procurement strategies, combined with strong local execution.”

Zallie noted that Ingredion has “a pretty good track record of delivering on cost takeout,” pointing to the company’s Cost Smart program, which was launched in 2019 and ran through 2021. He said Cost Smart originally had a savings target of $125 million, a target that was raised to $150 million and ended up delivering more than $170 million.

Ingredion in 2024 expects adjusted EPS to be in the range of $9.20 to $9.85, up from its earlier forecast of $9.15 to $9.85.