Rising fourth-quarter earnings failed to stem a slump in full-year profits for J&J Snack Foods as the US company battled soaring commodity costs.

For the fourth quarter ended 27 September, net earnings increased 7% to US$11.2m from $10.5m in the comparable period last year.

Operating income increased 9% to $17.9m from $16.4m in the year-ago period, while sales also increased by 9% to $177.4m from $162.2m a year ago.

Despite this, net earnings for the fiscal year 2008 dropped 13% to $27.9m from $32.1m in 2007.

Operating income decreased 11% to $43.3m this year from $48.6m a year ago. J&J said its unit commodity costs more than tripled during the year to over $30m.

Turnover, however, rose 11% to $629.4m.

"As previously reported throughout the year, our earnings were impacted by higher input costs, particularly wheat- and dairy-based products," said Gerald Shreiber, J&J's president and CEO. "We are gratified that we were able to grow our overall business by 11% and maintain key market shares during these challenging economic times."