DENVER – The WhiteWave Foods Co. continues to perform well on the strength of its on-trend product portfolio which consists of plant-based proteins and organic products, among others. For the first quarter of fiscal 2016, ended March 31, WhiteWave’s net income rose 28% to $43 million, equal to 24c per share on the common stock. Sales for the quarter rose 14% to $1,040 million.
|Gregg Engles, chairman and c.e.o. of WhiteWave|
“We are off to a very good start in 2016, delivering results ahead of our expectations with healthy topline growth and operating performance,” said Gregg Engles, chairman and chief executive officer. “Our robust organic constant currency sales growth in the first quarter was driven by strong growth across our legacy platforms in traditional retail outlets, along with increasing contributions from away-from-home channels and our growing international presence.
“Our Vega and Wallaby acquisitions also continued their robust growth trends, positively impacting our results as well. Our strong start to the year has led us to increase our guidance for full year 2016.”
The full-year guidance range rose from $1.38 to $1.41 to $1.42 to $1.45.
In the company’s Americas Foods & Beverages business unit, first-quarter sales rose 15% to $895 million when compared to the same period of the previous year, and operating income rose 17% to $96 million. The increases were driven by the impact of Vega, a brand of plant-based nutritional products that was acquired in August of 2015.
“Vega continues to grow rapidly with sales up over 50% in Q1,” Mr. Engles said in a conference call with securities analysts on May 10. “We continue to build distribution and are seeing good velocities in specialty channels. We've also begun to build distribution in mass and grocery. We expect Vega's growth rate to moderate over the balance of the year as we lap distribution gains, but we remain excited about our robust Vega growth plot behind brand building, innovation and distribution gains.”
Overall, Mr. Engles added the company expects “solid” growth rates in the company’s Americas plant-based platform over the balance of the year behind growth in beverages, yogurts and frozen desserts.
WhiteWave’s Europe Foods & Beverages business unit also performed well, with sales rising 11% to $145 million and operating income rising 6% to $15 million.
“Based on our first-quarter results and an expectation of continued strong performance, we are increasing our forecasts for the year,” said Greg Christenson, executive vice-president and chief financial officer. “Our outlook for full year 2016 continues to include the expectation for high single-digit organic sales growth and 75 basis points of adjusted constant currency operating margin expansion from continued operational leverage.”
The company is also starting to make inroads into Mexico and has its eyes on Latin America, according to Mr. Engles.
“ … The nice thing about at least the northern parts of Latin America is they are accessible from the United States with distributed product, and that is how we have approached Mexico so far, plus some co-packing opportunities there,” he said. “But the cultural familiarity between Mexico and the United States has facilitated the rollout of the Silk brand into those marketplaces. And I think as they become (better) developed in Mexico, our brands, that that would make for logical extension further down into the South American continent.“So, we are taking a cautious approach in terms of the investment of both capital and organizational resources into the development of Latin America. I think that that will continue to be our approach as we leverage infrastructure that already exists in the marketplaces that we hope to enter.”