US soup maker Campbell Soup has reported net earnings of US$211m, or $0.51 per share, for the first quarter to 2 November, compared with earnings of $192m, or $0.47 per share, in the year-ago quarter, before the cumulative effect of an accounting change which lowered year-ago earnings by 8 cents per share.

First-quarter net sales rose 12% to $1.91bn. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were $354m, a 7% increase compared to the year-ago quarter.

"We have delivered a good first quarter and we are on target to deliver our earnings for the year. Our highest priority is to revitalize our U.S. soup business through the introduction of more convenient, higher quality products," said Douglas R. Conant, Campbell's president and chief executive officer.

"Strong consumer demand in the quarter for our 'M'm! M'm! Good! To Go' line of ready-to-serve soups in microwaveable containers, including Campbell's 'Soup at Hand,' 'Chunky,' and 'Select' soups, demonstrates that our strategy is on target. In fact, consumer acceptance has significantly exceeded our expectations and we are now working to increase our production capacity," Conant added.

For the second quarter of fiscal 2004, the company expects earnings per share to be in the range of $0.52 to $0.54, which is below prior year due to planned marketing investment. The company is maintaining its earnings per share guidance for fiscal 2004 at approximately $1.58.