US consumer goods giant Sara Lee has reported a sharp fall in first-quarter profit, impacted by impairment and transformation charges, exit costs and lower net sales.

The company posted net income of US$67m, or 9 cents per share, for the first quarter to 1 October, compared to $352m, or 44 cents per share, for the year-ago period.

Net sales for the first quarter were $4.3bn compared to $4.4bn in the prior year's first quarter, a decrease of 2%. Sales grew in North American retail meats and international beverage and bakery during the quarter, while declining in North American retail bakery, household and body care and branded apparel.

"During the quarter, our management team continued to take the necessary steps to transform Sara Lee and improve our performance," said Brenda Barnes, chairman and chief executive officer of Sara Lee.

"While we exceeded our forecasted earnings per share target, we still are not satisfied with our business performance. However, our ongoing transformation initiatives are building the momentum needed to drive improvement. The organisation is fully in place, focused on driving the top-line with new products, marketing innovation and customer focus. Efforts behind procurement, process improvement and IT also are well underway to improve our overall efficiencies," added Barnes.