Kellogg indicated that revenue in the quarter grew 7.6% to $2.6 billion compared to $2.4 billion in the first quarter of 2004. Earnings charged up 16% in the quarter to $254.7 million versus $219.8 million. Given the tough competition in the food segment and current cost pressures in the form of higher commodity and energy expenses, Kellogg's showing is commendable.
In North America, the firm's large cereal business brought in a respectable 4% increase in sales. The star performer, though, was Kellogg's specialty and frozen channels division, which includes the Eggo, Toaster Swirlz, and Morningstar Farms brands. That unit saw its sales climb 12%, which is an encouraging sign, considering peak year-over-year quarterly sales growth in 2004 was 5%. As for the international sphere, Kellogg managed its best showing in Latin America, where sales increased 12%.
Earnings, meanwhile, benefited from higher prices and improved product mix as well as a 0.9% rise in gross profit margin. Part of the firm's productivity has led to the shutdown of some Keebler bakeries to cut down on costs. At the same time, Kellogg's austerity measures have not extended to the marketing area. To compete with other food giants like General Mills
Looking ahead, the company expressed confidence that 2005 earnings will come in at the high end of its earnings guidance of $2.28 to 2.32 per share. Kellogg shares are already trading at nearly 19 times the high end of this range, however. For now, investors should probably pass on Kellogg stock.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.