The Tasty Baking Company has said that while its gross sales for the third quarter, ended 30 September, declined by 4.8% it has increased its earnings per share by 50% on the back of margins improvements of 3.6%.

Although a difficult market has challenged the company, David S. Marberger, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said that Tasty Baking is satisfied with its third quarter performance. “Overall, we were satisfied with the company’s ability to weather a challenging competitive and economic environment during the third quarter and still grow net sales per case and gross profit per case double digits during the quarter versus last year,” he commented.

Gross sales for the year-to-date declined by 0.8% due to a 9% drop in volumes. Net sales were down 0.4% for the year-to-date, dropping from US$127.3m for the first nine months of FY2005 to $126.8m for the first nine months of this year. Sales volumes were negatively impacted by the company’s price increases and a shift in consumer spending patterns, Tasty Baking said.

Gross margins for the year have improved by 2.3% to 34.3%.

Commenting on the results Charles P. Pizzi, president and chief executive officer of Tasty Baking Company, said: “We continued to exercise disciplined cost control measures during the quarter. This discipline, along with improved net sales realisation, resulted in gross margin expansion of 3.6 percentage points and earnings per share growth of 50% versus the same quarter last year. We cannot dismiss the fact, however, that higher sustained fuel prices and resulting shifts in consumer spending, as well as increased promotional activity on the part of our competitors, affected what could have been an even stronger quarter.”

Tasty Baking increased its Q3 EPS to $0.06, up from $0.4, bringing year-to-date earnings per share to $0.31, up from $0.21 last year.