US food maker Ralcorp Holdings has reported an increase in third-quarter net earnings despite grappling with higher costs of ingredients such as soybean oil, eggs, rice, wheat flour, macadamias and almonds.

The company posted net earnings of US$24.6m, or 82 cents per share, for the third quarter to 30 June, compared to $16.0m, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net sales for the three-month period were $386.3m, up 24% from $311.5m in the year-ago period, boosted by the acquisitions of Bakery Chef in December 2003 and Concept 2 Bakers in February 2004.

Ralcorp said it had offset higher energy and ingredients costs through hedging, forward purchase contracts and selling price adjustments, but warned that if ingredient and energy costs remain at elevated levels as expected, some of the measures will become less effective, resulting in reduced profit margins.