Spain's Natra Group has posted a EUR5m (US$6.39m) operating profit in the first quarter of 2006, three times more than the EUR1.6m reported last time, helped by rising sales and operating gains.

In a statement, the chocolate and food group said Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) leapt to EUR8.4m from EUR3m in the prior-year quarter. EBITDA/sales margins rose to 11.6% from 6.6%, the company said without disclosing a revenue figure.

Natra noted that its packaged-chocolate and cacao-derivatives division, which sells brands such as Jacali Belgian truffles and Zahor chocolates, saw sales rise 17% and that its EBITDA margin increased to 10.3% from 4.7%.

Natra also got a boost from its stalwart nutraceuticals division Natraceutical, which also performed strongly during the quarter.

Natra said that sales at its Torre Oria wine division also rose 3%.