Hormel Upbeat About 2008 Earnings Growth

Hormel Foods, the maker of Spam luncheon meat and Dinty Moore canned stew, is optimistic it can grow operating earnings by 10% in fiscal 2008, but said the current quarter has been a "mixed bag."

While rising commodity costs remain a challenge, "I like what I see" for fiscal 2008, Chief Executive Jeffrey Ettinger said during an investor conference on Monday at the company's Austin, Minnesota, headquarters.

"I think we have excellent growth initiatives throughout our company" he said, during a speech that was Webcast.

Ettinger said he expects Hormel to be able to return to 10% profit growth in its operating segments.

Hormel also reaffirmed its forecast for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 62 to 68 cents per share.

The quarter, which runs to the end of October, has been a "mixed bag," he said, noting that Hormel's Jennie-O Turkey Store brand performed better than expected, while grocery products struggled.

"So when it's all said and done, we are maintaining our guidance range for the quarter," Ettinger said.

In August, Hormel posted lower quarterly profit, hurt by higher pork, beef, chicken and grain costs.

Hormel's specialty food segment has benefited from higher sales of nutritional and ready-to-drink products and price hikes, and sales of its Spam products and Stagg chili have been strong, but price increases have failed to offset higher commodity costs.