Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York, H.J. Heinz president and CEO William R Johnson said the company anticipates a strong third quarter performance, predicting sales growth of 5%, profit growth of 9% and EPS growth of 30%.

Johnson confirmed that the ketchup giant is on track to meet its full year earnings per share projection of US$2.35-2.39, an increase of between 12% and 14% over last year.

Heinz said that its sales and earnings growth was the consequence of product innovation and an increased spend on marketing in key markets, including the US, Pacific and Asia. The company said that in Europe it has witnessed a strong performance, driven by UK retail, Italian infant food and Weight Watchers healthy meals and desserts.

"We now expect to increase consumer marketing by almost $60m this year. This represents a more than 20% increase from last year and is well above our original commitment. We also expect to maintain our recent trend of double-digit increases in R&D spending," Johnson told his audience of industry analysts.

"We expect consumer-driven innovation and focused marketing in categories and markets where the company has strong brands, category leadership, and other unique competitive advantages especially in health and wellness to help Heinz sustain the company's momentum through FY 2008. Importantly, recent productivity gains have enabled us to invest aggressively in current and future growth with over 200 new products planned for 2008," he continued.

Johnson continued to observe that Heinz is meeting and exceeding the productivity targets laid out in its Superior Value and Growth Plan in response to shareholder criticism that the company was failing to return value to its stockholders.

The group, Johnson said, has achieved global supply chain savings of more than $175m and reduced global deals and allowances spending to 17.2% of sales. Heinz is also planning the closure of 15 production plants to cut costs, Johnson concluded.

The group's third quarter results are due out on 27 February.

"Heinz sales, profit and EPS growth in the third quarter are projected to be outstanding and there is no doubt Heinz has strong momentum across all its businesses," Michael Mullen, Heinz spokesperson, told just-food.