Smart Balance, the US maker of "heart healthy" foods, swung to a profit for the third-quarter.

Net income for the period reached US$1.3m compared to a loss of $1.6m for the third quarter of 2008. The figure reflected gains in operating income and lower interest expenses and debt related costs.

Sales for the quarter increased 4% to reach $59.8m, primarily due to increased case shipments, partially offset by higher trade and consumer promotion expenses, related to the launch of the new sour cream products.

Operating income increased 34% to $3.5m compared with $2.6m in the prior year.

"We delivered solid financial results with strong margin and profit growth, together with share growth in our core category of spreads despite continued heavy promotional spending by our competition," said Stephen Hughes, Smart Balance chairman and CEO.

The company's initial outlook for 2010 reflects net sales growth of 15% versus 2009 as a greater increase in case volume driven by new products and the national expansion of milk distribution will be partially offset by related introductory investments and a lower average sales per case due to product mix.

Operating income as percent of net sales will be consistent with 2009 due to growth in gross profit and leveraging of operating costs.