Total packaged meats volume increased 4 percent in the first quarter, with gains across all key trade channels including retail, foodservice and deli, said C. Larry Pope, president and CEO. Retail packaged meats volume growth was led by strong double-digit gains in bacon and dry sausage. "Furthermore, we secured contracts with several new national foodservice accounts, which fueled 6 percent growth in the foodservice channel," said Pope. "The introduction of Eckrich Bacon Lovers Deli Meats last quarter contributed to a 6 percent volume gain in the deli channel. Notably, volume of our core brands rose 7 percent."
The company's fresh pork business didn't do as well, due to higher supplies and weak domestic retail demand. "Historically, the first quarter is the most difficult time of the year for fresh pork," said the company. "Margins were below the normalized range at $(2) per head, as an 8 percent decline in the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] pork cutout outweighed a 4 percent drop in live hog market prices. Last year's first quarter was an exception to the seasonal trend. The company processed 3 percent more hogs. Export shipments remained strong and kept pace with record volumes in the prior year."