Kefir maker Lifeway Foods has posted an increase in first-quarter net income, aided by “record low” conventional milk prices.

Total net income for the three months to 31 March reached US$1.5m compared with $888,605 in the same period of 2008.

Total sales for the period increased 24% to around $13.5m, which was primarily attributable to increased sales and awareness of Lifeway’s flagship line, Kefir, as well as ProBugs Organic Kefir for kids.

Additionally, the results include revenues of $1.4m from Lifeway’s 6 February acquisition of Fresh Made Dairy.

Operating income was also up, by 86% to $1.2m during the quarter.

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CFO Edward Smolyansky said yesterday (18 May): “We are extremely pleased at our record first-quarter 2009 results. From top to bottom this was our best quarter since our company was founded exactly 23 years ago tomorrow. We were aided by record low conventional milk prices, which continued to remain at first quarter lows in April and May. Additionally, organic milk prices, which have been at the same levels for several years, have also now begun to decline in price starting in mid-May.”

Smolyansky said the company has paid down around $1.5m in debt taken out to finance the acquisition.

The company has also recently begun to ship direct to ShopRite, a chain of around 200 stores primarily in the north-east region of the US.