US pasta maker American Italian Pasta has announced its financial targets and company objectives for fiscal 2004, which includes working on new reduced-carb products.

“Given heightened carbohydrate awareness and the increasing negative impact on pasta consumption of consumer diet trends, we have been directing a significant company-wide effort towards development of a portfolio of new products that respond to these trends,” American Italian Pasta said in a statement.

The company expects to be selling these new reduced carbohydrate products in all channels by the end of the second quarter. The company already ships “low carb” products to Atkins under their brand.

American Italian Pasta said it had recently been awarded increased allocations of private label volume and market share at Kroger (Western US divisions), Ahold, and Save-A-Lot, that will begin to ship in the second fiscal quarter.

Additionally, the company expects to generate meaningful growth from Sysco‘s expansion into Canada, the full-year benefit of its General Mills contract, continued growth with Wal-Mart and other channel retailers, and the strong performance of its Italian business unit.

However, the company also expects a more challenging pasta category and market environment, due to the impact on pasta consumption of current consumer diet trends; difficult competitive, financial and labour environments for a number of its retail customers; and continued channel shifting by consumers to outlets that focus on lower prices.

American Italian Pasta said it expects fiscal 2004 sales of US$490-520m, a rise of 11-18% from the previous year, and earnings per share of between $2.55 and $2.70, a rise of 10-17% from the previous year.