HJ Heinz has updated its first quarter outlook after what the company has described as “a very strong start to the fiscal year.” Heinz said it expects first quarter sales to increase by more than 7% on the back of a 5% increase in volume, thanks to new products and marketing.

Heinz said that it anticipates operating income to increase by more than 10%. With the exclusion of special items from the previous year, the company said EPS would increase by around 20% from the first quarter of last year. On a reported basis, EPS from continued operations is expected to rise 40%.

In the midst of a proxy battle with dissident investors the Trian Group, Heinz management has sought to reassure shareholders that management is committed to returning value.

“Heinz is clearly demonstrating accelerating business momentum, with robust sales and volume growth expected in the first quarter. There is no question that Heinz delivered superior performance in the first quarter as the company remains intensely focused on enhancing shareholder value,” Michael Mullen, director of global corporate affairs, told just-food.

The company will announce its first quarter results on 31 August.

Separately, presiding director Thomas J Usher said that the company was making good progress in its search for two new independent directors who will be added to the Heinz board.

“We expect to be in a position to elect two new directors shortly after the 16 August shareholder meeting. These individuals are expected to bring deep knowledge and experience as well as strong track records of exceptional business performance. This expedited selection process is further confirmation that the Heinz board will hold management accountable for the execution of the Superior Value & Growth Plan and is committed to taking appropriate action to deliver the plan and pursue other appropriate actions to maximise shareholder value,” Usher said.