US branded food maker International Multifoods has reported higher quarterly net earnings, but said earnings from continuing operations declined.

The Minneapolis-based company posted net earnings of $14.2m, or 73 cents per diluted share, for the third quarter to 29 November, compared with $10.6m, or 55 cents per diluted share, a year ago.

Excluding unusual and one-time items, earnings from continuing operations for the three-month period, were $14.8m, or 76 cents per share, compared with $15.8m, or 81 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. The year-over-year decline in earnings was primarily attributable to lower sales volumes and lower pension income, the company said.

Net sales in the third quarter were $273.7m, down from $301.2m in the prior year.

"Our results in the quarter were in line with the expectations we outlined in November and keep us on track to meet our revised earnings and free cash flow estimates for the full year," said chairman and chief executive officer Gary E. Costley.

"During the quarter, we began an across-the-board assessment of our cost structure to identify ways to streamline the organisation and increase the efficiency of our operations," Costley said. "With the cost-savings we generate, we intend to increase investments in new initiatives that enhance the short- and long-term value of our brands."