McCormick & Company, the spices and flavourings specialist, has said its sales increased by 1% in the first quarter of the current fiscal year. However, earnings per share fell to US$0.11, from $0.26 in the first quarter of 2005, as a result of higher costs and changes in accounting standards.

The company said that sales in local currencies rose by 3%, while gross profit margin increased to 39.2% compared with 37.8% in the first quarter of 2005. The company anticipated that gross profit margins would rise significantly during 2006 on the back of higher margins for vanilla, an improved performance in Europe and cost savings in both the consumer and industrial businesses.

“We are encouraged by the strong start to our 2006 fiscal year,” said chairman, president and CEO Robert J. Lawless. “Gross profit margin, operating income and net income were all ahead of plan. Both the consumer and industrial businesses benefited from the launch of new products. We have also taken pricing actions to offset the higher costs of packaging, energy and benefits.”