Dean Foods Company has posted first quarter 2006 net income of US$52.8m, compared with $51.1m in the prior year first quarter, attributed to strong growth of key brands.

Net sales for the first quarter totaled $2.6bn, an increase of 1% over Q1 2005, due to strong sales growth at the Dairy Group and WhiteWave Foods, partially offset by lower dairy commodity costs.

Diluted earnings per share were $0.40, an increase of 8% from $0.37 in last year's first quarter.

Dean Foods chairman and chief executive officer Gregg Engles said: "Both the Dairy Group and WhiteWave Foods performed well in the first quarter. Our Dairy Group again outpaced the industry, growing fluid milk volumes by 3.4%. Sales of our key brands at WhiteWave Foods continue to grow at a robust pace, and our supply chain initiatives are driving significant operational improvements."

The company is leaving full year guidance unchanged with expectations for $2.10 to $2.15 earnings per share. For the second quarter it expects earnings of approximately $0.52 to $0.54 per share.

"Although rising fuel prices are a concern, volume trends are strong in the Dairy Group and dairy commodity prices are trending favourably. At WhiteWave Foods, we expect continued strong sales trends throughout the year. However, commodity costs in organic milk, energy, and sugar have increased," added Engles.