Snackfoods group Lance has posted net income of US$5.6m, or $0.18 per share, for the fourth quarter, against $1.5m, or $0.05 per share, for the same period in 2005, with sales for the quarter down by 10% at $172.4m.

The fourth-quarter performance was negatively impacted by a sharp rise in flour prices and soft sales in the private label cookies and crackers segments, the company said.

Full-year net sales rose by 10% to $748.0m, including discontinued operations. The growth in branded product sales was driven largely by incremental Tom's business and continued strength in sales of Lance crackers and Cape Cod potato chips, the company said. The growth in non-branded product sales was driven by additional contract manufacturing business, the Tom's acquisition and modest growth in private label product sales. Net income for full 2006 fiscal year reached $18.5m, on a par with the previous year. 

"I am extremely pleased with the ground work that was accomplished during 2006, which positions our company for improved operating results in the future," said president and CEO David V Singer. "Lance implemented a significant number of initiatives during 2006 focused on improving our operational efficiency and developing a solid foundation for profitable growth."

Singer added that during the year the company had strengthened its management team, integrated the Tom's acquisition into its manufacturing, distribution and administrative infrastructure, identified and begun implementing enhancements to its supply chain and begun the design and implementation of a new enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) solution.

"We also achieved record sales for the company in 2006, reflecting the incremental impact of the Tom's acquisition along with continued growth in our core Lance and Cape Cod branded products," Singer said. "While the impact of our efforts to date is not fully demonstrated in our current financial results, we continue to make progress on operational initiatives that we are confident will support significant improvements in our growth and profitability over the next several years."

The company is forecasting net sales from continuing operations of between $750m and $775m for 2007, and earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.80 to $0.88.