United Natural Foods expects profits to rise for the full fiscal 2009 year, executives announced on a recent earnings call. Sales for the fourth quarter of 2008 were up 29%. However, cash flow was down on the year, and profits for the quarter were down 2%.
There have been some concerns over UNFI’s profitability from investors as the company has been plagued by high fuel costs, and softening retail performance. Still, executives see enough opportunities to forecast incremental growth on a quarter-to-quarter basis next year. United Natural’s Blue Marble branded division grew 37% in the fourth quarter, with plans to expand its product portfolio.
President and CEO Mark Funk shared a detailed 2009 outlook, “As we look ahead to fiscal 2009, we forecast revenue growth in the 10% to 12% range bringing ’09 sales to the $3.63 to $3.7 billion range. In addition, we estimate our earnings per share to be in the $1.30 to $1.38 range, which is an increase of 15% to 22% over fiscal ’08.”
NBJ sees this as a good sign that high growth in natural and organic foods will persist through 2009, despite weakening economic conditions.