US food giant Kraft Foods has reaffirmed its 2004 earnings outlook and said it is making progress on its restructuring programme.

At its annual stockholders meeting, the company said it is still expecting 2004 earnings per share at the lower end of the projected range of $1.63 to $1.70, reflecting about 30 cents per share in asset impairment charges and exit costs associated with the restructuring.

On the subject of the company’s “Sustainable Growth Plan”, Kraft’s president, David Johnson, said the company’s first priority is to build superior brand value, as consumers and retailers are placing more importance on value than ever before.

Kraft is doing that by, among other things, offering innovative new packaging, such as the Capri Sun “bottle-can” and new products, such as DiGiorno Thin Crispy Crust Pizza, which launches in May, Johnson said.

Johnson also highlighted the company’s efforts to transform its product portfolio to align with consumer health and wellness trends. New product introductions include Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs, Crystal Light Sunrise soft drink and Balance Go Mix snack mix.

Hugh Roberts, president of Kraft International Commercial, discussed Kraft’s efforts to expand global scale, specifically focusing on growth in developing markets.

“The large markets of China, Russia, Brazil and Mexico are particularly attractive,” he said.

“Their size not only offers us the potential for growth, but also the opportunity to build scale and efficiency to ensure that growth is profitable. We performed well in these countries in 2003, and look to build on that success going forward,” Roberts added.