US branded meat products company Hormel Foods has reported a better-than-expected 10% rise in first-quarter net earnings.

The company posted net earnings of US$51.8m, or 37 cents per share, for the first quarter to 24 January, compared to $46.9m, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales totalled $1.1bn, up from $1.0bn in the same period last year.

“Exceptional demand for our value-added pork and turkey products resulted in better-than-expected performance in the first quarter,” said president and CEO Joel W. Johnson.

“Our International business reported strong results, with volume up 47% and operating profit up 36%,” Johnson said, adding that strong margins from international sales of Spam products, Stagg chili and improved earnings from its operations in China operations were key contributors to the increased profits.

Hormel forecast second-quarter earnings in a range of 28 cents to 34 cents per share. For fiscal 2004, the company forecast earnings of between $1.46 and $1.60.