Kefir maker Lifeway Foods saw its net income almost double for the third quarter as the company expands its distribution to Northeast and Northern California.

For the period ended 30 September, net income jumped 83% to US$854,916 from $468,194 during the same period last year.

Sales rose 15% to around $11.2m driven by a "strong" sales increase of Lifeway's Kefir and ProBugs brands.

Third-quarter operating income reached $1.5m from $581,043 in the comparable period of 2007.

CFO Edward Smolyansky said Lifeway was "proud" of its results. He said margins had remained "strong" despite soaring oil prices this summer and added that Lifeway was starting to see some costs come down.

"All of our oil related production supplies, utilities and transportation costs hit record levels during the third quarter, and we have only just begun to see these costs subside as the price of oil retreats," Smolyansky said.

"Additionally, the cost of milk in October declined to the lowest level in 16 months, and we expect them the decline even further."

Gross profit for the period increased 30% to $3.5m from the same period a year ago.