US food maker Del Monte Foods has reported a rise in third quarter profit, helped by its acquisition of several brands from HJ Heinz.

The company posted net profit of US$53.5m, or 25 cents per share, for the third quarter to 25 January, compared to$24.4m, or 13 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Income from continuing operations rose to $52.2m from $22.4m a year earlier.

Net sales increased to $811m for the third quarter, compared to $537.3m in the same period of the previous year. The company said it increase in reported net sales for the quarter was due primarily to the inclusion of fruit, vegetable and tomato sales after the completion of the December 2002 Heinz merger.

Del Monte said increases in sales of Starkist tuna were partly offset by a decline in sales of Del Monte branded products.