J&J Snack Foods has booked a jump in first-quarter earnings on higher sales and an increase in investment income.

The US pretzel maker said that net earnings rose 22% to US$12.4m, up from $10.2m in the comparable period of last year. The bottom line was boosted by an increase in margins and a gain from investment income. Operating income increased to almost $18m, up from $15m last year.

During the period, the group said sales rose 6% to $203.5m. Gains were driven by higher foodservice sales of the group's soft pretzel product. J&J said that it is adding new capacity to manage an expected increase in demand.

The group also saw a rebound in retail demand, with sales dipping just 3% in the quarter, compared to a 24% slide in the fourth quarter of last year.

Janney analyst Jonathan Feeney said that the improved retail result provided "some comfort" that recent headwinds impacting its retail unit were "transitory and easing". Sales through the group's retail business have been hit by reductions in customer inventory and the impact of poor weather.