A rise in second-quarter earnings was not enough to arrest a fall in first-half profits at Dean Foods, the largest dairy group in the US.

The company, which has been facing higher milk costs, today (6 August) posted first-half net income of US$79.7m, a fall of 13.6% on the year.

Second-quarter net income, however, jumped 72% to $48.9m, thanks to lower interest costs and an improved showing from the company's DSD Dairy unit - a result that led chairman and CEO Gregg Engles to praise the business' performance.

"Overall, the business is executing well in this unprecedented inflationary environment and our near term results reflect the consistent improvement we've made since the third quarter of last year," Engles said. "I'm pleased that we have returned to growth in the second quarter."

Net sales rose 13% to $6.2bn thanks largely to price increases and increased sales at Dean's WhiteWave-Morningstar unit.

However, Engles admitted the unit was facing some "challenges", with margins down in the second quarter due to higher milk costs offsetting price increases.