US packaged food company ConAgra Foods has reported higher quarterly earnings and said its carbohydrate-controlled products have been accepted into the market.

The company posted earnings of US$203m, or 38 cents per diluted share, for the third quarter to 22 February, compared to earnings of $161m, or 30 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Operating profit rose to $451m, compared to $446m a year earlier.

Sales were $3.6bn, essentially equal with last year, while on a comparable basis sales were 4% ahead of last year after adjusting for $155m of sales from divested businesses in last year’s results.

Sales of packaged foods were $3bn for the quarter, down slightly from last year due to divestitures. Sales for the top 30 consumer brands grew 6%, with several growing at a double-digit rate. Sales of the food ingredients unit increased, and operating profit improved significantly due to improved results for specialty ingredient products.

“This was a very solid quarter. We are particularly encouraged by sales and category share trends for several key brands and products, as well as progress with many customers. We are continuing our focus on top-line growth, mix improvement, and operations initiatives as part of our plan to improve profit margins and returns on capital,” said Bruce Rohde, chairman and chief executive officer.

During the quarter, the company introduced its new line of carbohydrate-controlled frozen meals, Life Choice. Based on favourable customer reaction to the product, the company said it is optimistic about the products’ prospects.

“Our fiscal third quarter showed encouraging results, particularly with regard to overall sales growth and how quickly our Life Choice products were introduced and accepted into the market. Although our industry is facing increasing input costs, as well as cycles in the economy, we expect a solid finish for our fiscal year, which ends in May,” Rohde added.