US food producer Ralcorp has reported a slight decline in quarterly net earnings, hit by higher ingredient costs.

The company posted net earnings of US$16.3m, or 54 cents per share, for the second quarter to 31 March, compared to $16.8m, or 57 cents per share, in the same quarter of the previous year.

Net sales for the three-month period rose 21.9% to $383.4m from $314.4m for the year-ago quarter.

The company said that although the prices of several ingredients, including soybean oil, eggs, rice, wheat flour, macadamias and almonds, have been increasing significantly, much of the impact of this was mitigated in the first half of the year through hedging, forward purchase contracts, and selling price adjustments.

Second quarter net sales for the company’s cereals, crackers & cookies segment increased 13% from last year, with the Bremner cracker and cookie division and the Ralston Foods cereal division showing strong growth. Ralcorp said the segment’s profit margins could be reduced in the second half due to higher costs of ingredients.

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Second quarter net sales for the snack nuts & candy segment, also known as Nutcracker Brands, grew 31% from last year. This growth came primarily from increased orders from existing top customers for both continuing and new private label items, as well as from a new customer.

Ralcorp said its recently acquired Bakery Chef unit has contributed $6.7m in profit since acquisition, including $4.2m during Ralcorp’s second quarter.