The maker of Cream of Wheat experienced soft consumer demand in the quarter.

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — First-quarter earnings and sales for B&G Foods, Inc. were hampered by the weak state of the U.S. retail marketplace, according to management. While the year started slowly, executives expressed optimism about the company’s performance during the rest of the year.

Robert Cantwell, B&G Foods
Robert C. Cantwell, c.e.o. and president of B&G Foods

Net income for the first quarter ended April 1 was $32,764,000, equal to 49c per share on the common stock, and slightly below the same period of the previous year when the company earned $33,196,000, equal to 56c per share.

Sales for the quarter rose to $417,874,000 from $352,978,000 the previous year primarily due to the impact of such acquisitions as Victoria Fine Foods this past December and the spice business of ACH Food Companies in September. Base business sales for the quarter, which excluded the acquisitions, were down $8.6 million to $344 million from $352.6 million the previous year.

“…It was a very difficult first quarter and just in general, not just our categories we play in,” said Robert C. Cantwell, chief executive officer and president, during a conference call with financial analysts on April 4. “General stores, grocery, was very difficult in January and February, (but) came back a little bit in March.”

Within the company’s Green Giant frozen business sales fell $4.7 million during the quarter. Mr. Cantwell said the decline was expected and included a decrease in club store sales and in the businesses’ bulk rice business.

B&G Foods plans to expand the Green Giant brand with a line of baked beans.

“For 2017, we continue to expect that Green Giant will generate approximately $530 million to $540 million in net sales versus $506.7 million in net sales in 2016,” he said. “Frozen share at grocery gained 1.7% in the quarter. This growth trend in frozen continued into April, and we were up year-to-date 2.6% at retail through Easter. We expect continued year-over-year improvement throughout the final nine months of 2017.

“We have been increasing production capacity to support the better-than-expected demand for the new Green Giant innovation products that we launched in 2016 and to support our new innovation launch in the frozen category during the second half of 2017.”

The launch of whole grain taco shells helped boost the Ortega brand's sales.

Mr. Cantwell said B&G’s Ortega brand did well during the quarter, with sales increasing approximately 2%. The brand’s core products did well, he said, as well as its new line of whole grain taco shells. In June, Ortega will add a line of taco toppers in jalapeño and onion varieties.

Amy J. Chiovari, interim chief financial officer, reaffirmed B&G Foods’ guidance for fiscal 2017, saying the company expects adjusted EBITDA to be in the range of $360 million to $375 million, equal to $2.13 per share to $2.27 per share.

Sales are expected to come in between $1.64 billion and $1.68 billion.