HJ Heinz yesterday (19 July) said that it anticipates a strong first quarter performance and confirmed that it is "comfortably on track" to meet its full year earnings per share guidance of US$2.35.

The ketchup maker said that it expects to report volume growth of 3% and overall sales growth of 6%, driven by good performance in US Consumer Products, Canada, Italy, Indonesia and Australia. Heinz anticipates operating income from continuing operations to rise by 10% and EPS to increase by almost 20%.
 
Heinz chairman, president and CEO William R. Johnson said: "We are pleased with the strong start to this fiscal year, with EPS expected to be above current consensus for the first quarter. The transformative steps we have taken over the past four years are paying off and driving this year's performance. The first quarter underscores our confidence in the full year EPS outlook of $2.35 and as a result we anticipate the ability to support additional innovations in our core businesses in order to sustain our growth in the coming years."

Sales at Heinz's US consumer products segment are expected to grow by more than 8%, while the company expects double-digit operating income growth. In its European and foodservice businesses, Heinz expects solid single-digit profit growth, while the company's Asia Pacific segment is expected to report operating income growth in excess of 25%.

Heinz is currently embroiled in a proxy contest between the current board and activist investors the Trian Group. Trian, headed by Nelson Peltz, want to get five members elected to the board because, the group claims, current management has failed to drive business growth and return value to shareholders.

Heinz will report its first quarter results on 31 August.