OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Shoppers continued to pick up ConAgra Foods Inc.'s brands as they tried to save money, sending the packaged-food maker's fiscal second-quarter profit higher.

The strong performance also prompted the maker of Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice on Monday, Dec. 21, to boost 2010 guidance for the second time in three months.

ConAgra, like many food makers, has seen strength in its consumer foods business this year as people save money by eating at home. It also has benefited from a drop in commodity prices for ingredients. But the company's commercial business has suffered, with restaurants struggling as consumers ate out less frequently.

ConAgra, whose other brands include Slim Jim, Hunt's and Orville Redenbacher's, earned $239.7 million, or 54 cents per share, for the period ended Nov. 29. That's up 43 percent from $168.1 million, or 37 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Income from continuing operations rose to $243.2 million, or 55 cents per share, from $172.1 million, or 38 cents per share.

Excluding benefits of 2 cents per share for a lower-than-expected tax rate and a penny per share related to derivative gains, income from continuing operations was 52 cents per share in the latest quarter.

The performance beat the average forecast of 47 cents per share among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Analyst estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Sales fell 3 percent to $3.17 billion from $3.25 billion. However, revenue at ConAgra's consumer foods unit -- which comprises 64 percent of year-to-date sales -- rose 3 percent during the quarter on increased sales of brands such as Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender's, Snack Pack and Peter Pan.

Revenue fell short of Wall Street's forecast of $3.33 billion.

The commercial foods division, which is the rest of ConAgra's business, did not fare as well, with quarterly sales down 11 percent. ConAgra said part of the sales decline was due to lower flour milling sales.

ConAgra, based in Omaha, Neb., now anticipates adjusted income from continuing operations of about $1.73 per share for fiscal 2010. In September, ConAgra boosted its 2010 outlook to nearly $1.70 per share from a previous range of $1.63 to $1.66 per share.

The packaged foods maker also said it expects an estimated insurance payment of 5 cents per share related to a plant fire to arrive in fiscal 2011 instead of fiscal 2010 as previously predicted.

Recommended for you