US spice maker McCormick & Co has said it expects to post steady earnings growth in the next few years, helped by new products and acquisitions.

McCormick said it expects to report annual sales growth of 3-7% through to 2007. Earnings per share are expected to rise 10-12% annually over the same period, reported Dow Jones News.

McCormick said sales growth over the next few years would be fuelled by marketing, product development, acquisitions, distribution expansion and pricing adjustments. Earnings growth is to be fuelled by cost reductions.

The company recently posted net income of US$38.1m, or 27 cents per share, for the first quarter to 29 February, compared to $35.1m, or 25 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales for the quarter were $572m, an increase of 18% from the first quarter of 2003. Sales were boosted by higher volumes, pricing and product mix, favourable foreign exchange rates and the 2003 acquisition of Zatarain’s.

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“With this momentum and the favourable foreign exchange environment, we expect to exceed our initial objective to increase sales 7-9%. Sales growth is more likely to increase at a low double-digit rate. Our earnings per share objective for 2004 remains $1.51 to $1.54 as we continue to invest in growth initiatives and offset additional cost increases,” CEO Robert Lawless said when the results were released.