The Hain Celestial Group, a natural and organic food and personal care products company, has posted net sales of US$210.2m, a 30% increase compared with $161.1m in the prior year's first quarter, driven by increased demand for natural and organic products.

GAAP net income for the first quarter was $9m, or $0.23 per diluted share, a 31% increase over the prior year's $6.9m, or $0.18 per diluted share. Adjusted earnings in the quarter totalled $0.25 per share.

The reported results include $1.1m of previously announced start-up costs at the company's West Chester Frozen Foods Facility, a gain of $2.5m from the sale of the company's Biomarche fresh produce operation in Belgium, and a charge of $2.2m for an unfavourable VAT decision by the German.

"Our fiscal year 2007 is off to an excellent start. During the first quarter we achieved strong sales from Earth's Best, Garden of Eatin', Rice Dream, Soy Dream, WestSoy, Westbrae, Ethnic Gourmet, Casbah, FreeBird and JASON. We also drove strong results from our brands in Canada, and from our recent acquisitions," said Irwin Simon, president and CEO of Hain Celestial.

"Rising consumer demand for natural and organic food and personal care products continues across many distribution channels in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom, enabling us to realise solid top and bottom line growth at the company. We continue to integrate our recent acquisitions into our existing infrastructure, and look forward to continuing to achieve further margin efficiencies, general and administrative cost savings, and to improving our return on equity," Simon said.

The company reported gross margin of 28.1% in the first quarter, compared to 28.5% in the prior year's first quarter. 

"We continue to focus on driving efficiencies and reinvesting in our business, most recently at our West Chester Frozen Foods Facility, where we have expanded capacity and production for our Ethnic Gourmet and Rosetto brands and expect to further increase our production," commented Simon. "With our first quarter completed, we continue to see positive trends in the second quarter with increased demand for natural and organic products and strong consumption for our products."

Looking to 2007, Hain Celestial reconfirmed its sales guidance of $880m to $900m and earnings per share of $1.15 to $1.19.