HJ Heinz has reported significant progress and an increase in operating income of 8.1% for the third quarter of its financial year.

Total sales increased 5.7% during the quarter and the company posted volume growth of 2.9%.

Heinz's strategy for growth, outlined in September 2005, was to drive consistent annual sales growth of 3% to 4% and profits of 6% to 8%.

Heinz's chairman, president and CEO William Johnson said: "I am very pleased with the progress we made during the quarter. Heinz set a very ambitious agenda this year as part of its strategy for growth to further focus this company on its core categories and geographies, reduce management layers and overheads, and position the company for more consistent growth in its big brands."

During the third quarter, Heinz signed definitive agreements to sell its European Seafood business to Lehman Brothers for EUR425m (US$500m) and Tege poultry business to Pacific Equity Partners for NZ$250m (US$165m). Both sales are due for completion around the end of March.
 
For the financial year-to-date, Heinz reported income of $537m up until 25 January 2006, down 5.8% compared to $570.4m for the year-earlier period. Sales have increased 6.3% over the first nine months of the financial year.

Heinz is projecting sales growth of 3% to 4% for the 2007 financial year and operating income growth of 6% to 8%.