Heinz

(HNZ)

delivered better-than-expected profits for the latest quarter with help from its health-food brands and said it remains on track to deliver 10% or more earnings-per-share growth for the full year.

For the fiscal first quarter, Heinz said its earnings rose to $194.1 million, or 58 cents a share, from $157.3 million, or 45 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had expected earnings of 54 cents a share.

Last year's results include a profit from the company's discontinued European seafood and New Zealand poultry businesses, along with special items.

Sales increased 8.4% in the quarter to $2.06 billion, from $1.90 billion, led by double-digit growth in brands including Weight Watchers, Smart Ones and Classico pasta sauces. Volume increased 5.1%, reflecting growth in all of the company's segments, the company said in a press release Thursday.

Shares of Heinz added a penny to $41.99.

"Heinz delivered dynamic growth in sales, volume, operating income and EPS in the first quarter, reflecting the success of the company's aggressive plan to drive sales of our core brands, reduce costs and enhance shareholder value. Fiscal 2007 is off to a strong start and Heinz remains on track to deliver 10% plus growth in earnings per share for the full year," Heinz Chairman, President and Chief Executive William R. Johnson said in a statement.

The maker of Heinz ketchup and Ore-Ida frozen potatoes also said that higher prices, acquisitions and favorable foreign-exchange rates aided sales.

The Pittsburgh-based company has had an eventful few weeks, in large part because of a rough-and-tumble proxy fight with investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Group, which owns about 5.5% of Heinz.

Trian Group was concerned that Heinz wasn't doing enough to improve shareholder profits, and it sought to elect directors who would implement an aggressive growth plan. In late June, Standards & Poor's cut Heinz's corporate credit and senior debt ratings, in part because of the proxy fight.