Russian juice and dairy firm Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods has reported a 13.4% rise in first-quarter sales to US$223.9m, compared to $197.4m in the first quarter of 2002.

The company’s gross profit increased by 16.3% to $65.7m, with gross margins rising to 29.3% compared to 28.6% last year.

Net income decreased by 26% to $7.1m, primarily due to the combined effect of a temporary slowdown in juice sales growth as well as costs associated with expansion in the dairy segment. EBITDA showed a 0.9% decrease year-on-year to $21.6m.

Sergei Plastinin, CEO of Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, said; "The first three months of this year saw continued growth in sales and improvement in gross margins. Over recent months, we have developed and launched a number of programmes such as better supply chain management, newly designed IT infrastructure and investment in technology and new equipment to enhance operational cycle and improve our cost structure. We are also in the process of improving our brand and product portfolio, launching new products and increasing the efficiency of our distribution and sales channels."

Sales in Wimm-Bill-Dann's dairy segment in the first quarter increased by 16.7% from to $159m in 2003. The company said gross margins in the dairy sector grew to 26.7% from 25.4% last year due to a 5% drop in the cost of raw milk compared to last year, favourable price increases for sterilised milk and a higher share of value-added products in the product portfolio.