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The J. M. Smucker Management Discusses Q4 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

During the past year, we continued to execute on our acquisition strategy, completing 3 transactions. Following the Rowland Coffee and the Sara Lee food service beverage acquisitions earlier in the year, we took our first step in March towards achieving a meaningful presence in China by acquiring a minority interest in Seamild, an established leader in China's rapidly growing oats category. We're excited about partnering with this successful family-run business. Additionally, we continue to invest in our key productivity initiatives. Significant progress was made on the new state-of-the-art food manufacturing facility being built in Orville, Ohio and the expansion of our 2 coffee facilities in New Orleans. Lastly, we further demonstrated our commitment to enhancing shareholder value by repurchasing over 4 million shares of common stock, representing approximately 4% of the shares outstanding. And we increased our annual dividends by 15%. As we close the book on 2012 and turn our attention to fiscal 2013, we are encouraged about the future of our industry, our business and the strength of our brands. Softening commodity cost should help moderate retail pricing and bring back some of the volume declines that the retail food industry experienced this past year. Consumers continue to find their way through difficult times, and we must continue to listen to them, be flexible and adapt along with them.

To accomplish this, our focus for fiscal 2013 includes the following key initiatives: First, we are investing heavily in our portfolio of leading brands with a significant planned increase in marketing and innovation. Building on the success achieved in 2012, we have a robust new product pipeline across brands and expect to launch approximately 100 new items in 2013. Additionally, we continue to expand our use of digital marketing and social media as consumers' needs are evolving rapidly in this space. Secondly, we expect to further capitalize and build upon our recent acquisitions while exploring additional brand portfolio expansion opportunities in both North America and China. Third, we are committed to better managing key day-to-day and promotional price points to meet our consumer needs and address competition, including an increased focus on narrowing price gaps. Fourth, we are achieving a more efficient supply chain through our restructuring initiatives in coffee, food spreads and pickles. In 2012, these projects delivered cost savings that exceeded our annual expectations, and we expect an additional step-up in savings in 2013. Fifth, we're making great progress on our sustainability efforts, and we'll share many of these successes in our 2012 corporate responsibility report being published later this summer. And finally, our ability to generate significant free cash flow allows us to continue our track record of enhancing shareholder value as share repurchases and dividends will remain a key use of cash.

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