The chief of Hain Celestial, has consumers’ “commitment” to eat healthily despite the economy had given the US natural and organic food group a “strong start” to its fiscal year.

Irwin Simon, Hain’s president and CEO, was speaking as the company booked a 12.4% increase in first-quarter net income and a 12% rise in sales.

For the three months to 30 September, net income reached US$9.1m on the back of sales of $258m. Operating income was up 6.2% at $18.5m.

“Building on the improved consumption trends the company experienced earlier in the calendar year, we started off fiscal year 2011 with strong first quarter sales and earnings,” Simon said. “Even with a tough economy, consumers are committed to eating healthy foods and maintaining healthy lifestyles.”

The Hain chief executive added that he expects to see stronger results as the company moves through its fiscal year on the back of recent acquisitions in the US and the UK.

“We expect to see momentum increase resulting in stronger year-over-year results as we move through fiscal year 2011 both from our existing brands and our recent acquisitions,” Simon said.