US branded and private label food producer Del Monte Foods today (Thursday) reported a rise in net sales, but lower net income for the third quarter, ended 30 January 2005.

Net sales in the period were $861.3m compared with $811.1m in the same period a year earlier. Net income was $48.5m, compared with $53.5m.

In the nine months of the year to date, net sales were 2.334bn, compared with $2.214bn, with net income at $98.6m, compared with $108.0m in the year earlier period.

The sales increase was driven by higher volume from new product introductions and increased marketing support, as well as by increased pricing, the company said. Sales increased across each of Del Monte's operating segments (Del Monte Brands, StarKist Seafood, Private Label Soup and Pet Products).

Income from continuing operations decreased to $48.6m for the quarter from $52.2m a year ago due to increased inflationary costs in steel and energy, logistics and other transportation-related costs, as well as due to higher fish costs, the company said. Marketing spending also increased, as Del Monte continued to invest in its brands and new products. These higher costs were partially offset by increased pricing, cost reduction actions, lower overhead expenses, higher volume and lower interest expense.

"We continued to benefit from pricing actions taken over the last several quarters," said Richard G. Wolford, chairman and CEO. "We also continued to make the strategic investments in our brands and new product introductions that we believe will position our company for growth over the longer term.