US cereal maker Kellogg has reported a 34% rise in first-quarter earnings, boosted by an 11% increase in sales.

The company, whose products include Rice Krispies, Pop-Tarts and Nutri-Grain, posted net earnings of US$219.8m, or 53 cents per share, for the first quarter to 27 March, compared to $163.9m, or 40 cents per share, for the year-ago period.

Kellogg attributed the performance to sales growth momentum across the company, as a result of “brand-building investment, successful product innovation and solid execution”.

Net sales increased 11% to $2.4bn. Excluding foreign currency effects, sales growth was 6.5%.

“Our sales growth was exceptional and broad-based. We overcame substantially higher commodity and benefits costs, and we reinvested for the future by boosting our brand building and absorbing expenses related to cost-reduction projects. And through it all, we were able to significantly exceed our original forecasts for earnings and cash flow,” said CEO Carlos Gutierrez.

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Kellogg reiterated its earnings per share guidance for 2004 of between $2.07 and $2.11, which the company recently upgraded from a previous range of $2.05 to $2.09.