Flowers Foods, a US producer and marketer of bakery foods for retail and foodservice customers, has reported a fourth-quarter net profit, compared to a year-earlier loss, helped by new Nature’s Own Healthline products.

The company reported net income of US$17.2m, or 37 cents per share, for the fourth quarter to 3 January, compared to a loss of $9.9m, or 22 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The year-ago fourth quarter result included a loss of $15.7m related to discontinued operations from the Mrs. Smith’s Bakeries’ frozen dessert business.

For its fiscal year, the company reported net income of $14.7m, or 32 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $17.0m, or 37 cents per share, for the previous year.

Fourth-quarter sales rose 14.7% to $348.1m, while full-year sales rose 9.4% to $1.45bn. The company attributed the majority of the increase to higher volume sales of branded products, driven by new Nature’s Own Healthline products.

“Our fiscal year 2003 was a year of transition – we sold the frozen dessert business, restructured the Specialty Group to include frozen breads and rolls, introduced several new products, and prepared for management succession,” said CEO George E Deese.

“As a result, we begin 2004 with a solid foundation from which to grow. Our operating strategies provide us with competitive advantages and we will refine those strategies even further as the marketplace changes. We expect to continue generating strong cash flow, with which we will pay dividends, repurchase shares when appropriate, make acquisitions, and fund internal growth as we work to build long term-value for our shareholders,” Deese added.

The company expects fiscal 2004 sales to be between $1.475bn and $1.5bn, with net income of approximately 3.75% to 4.0% of sales.