Smart Balance, a US firm making "heart-healthy" foods, said today (25 February) that it had seen earnings improve during the last quarter of 2009 - but promotions and a dip in volumes weighed on sales.

The company booked fourth-quarter net income of US$56,000 - against a net loss of $2.4m in the last three months of 2008. Smart Balance said the 2009 fourth-quarter result included $1.5m in refinancing costs.

Fourth quarter net sales fell 10.1% to $58.9m due to higher spending on promotions and a 1.5% fall in case shipments.

"We delivered our income targets for the quarter and the year helped by the strong performance in gross margin, despite the lower than expected volumes in our core spreads category and the slower roll-out of sour cream," said Stephen Hughes, Smart Balance chairman and CEO.

For the whole of 2009, sales increased 7.9% to $239.5m due to a 6.4% increase in case shipment volume. Smart Balance booked an annual net income of $3.5m, against a net loss of just under $7m in 2008.