US food giant Kraft Foods has cut its target for earnings growth in 2011, citing “weak consumer and category growth” and “significant” increases in input costs.

The company, which makes brands from Philadelphia cheese to Cadbury chocolate, said yesterday (10 February) that it now sees its operating earnings per share rising by 11-13% – down from a forecast made in November for “mid-teens” growth in 2011.

Kraft announced its lower forecast as it reported its fourth-quarter results. The company’s diluted earnings per share stood at $0.31, down from $0.48 in the fourth quarter of 2009, on the back of costs linked of the integration of Cadbury into the business. Fourth-quarter net earnings were down 23.1% at $547m.

Kraft’s operating income increased 2.2% in the fourth quarter to $1.24bn, as net revenues jumped 30% to $13.77bn, due to the impact of the Cadbury acquisition.

On an organic basis, net revenues from Kraft’s “base business” were up 6.5% thanks to an improved mix of sales and higher pricing.

Chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld said Kraft had finished 2010 “with good momentum”.

Rosenfeld added: “Looking ahead, we expect the operating environment to remain challenging, with significant input cost inflation and persistent consumer weakness in many markets. Given our strong business fundamentals, however, we remain confident that we will deliver earnings growth in 2011 that’s both ahead of our long-term targets and within the top tier of our peer group.”

Kraft’s shares closed up 0.1% at $31.24 yesterday, having fallen as much as 1.4% during the day.

Click here for Kraft’s full statement and check back later for further insight into the company’s fourth-quarter and 2010 results.