SunOpta Foods, the Canadian natural and organic food group, has swung to a first-quarter profit on the back of higher sales.

The company, which is set to sell a food distribution business in Canada to US group United Natural Foods, booked net income of US$4.6m for the three months to 3 April. A year earlier, SunOpta posted a net loss of $1.7m.

The improved bottom line came as SunOpta increased sales by 14.7% to $266.1m.

"The results of the first quarter are the product of extensive initiatives we have completed, centered on improving operating results within our core business segments while at the same time improving our return on assets employed," said SunOpta president and CEO Steve Bromley.