Packaged-foods company Ralcorp Holdings (NYSE:RAH) shares are trading 12% higher today, despite a mixed third-quarter earnings report after yesterday's closing bell.

The most notable aspect of the call was the company's unrealized $29.8 million loss on its 19% stake in Vail Resorts (NYSE:MTN). The losses stem from the forward sale contracts the company implemented to collar its Vail holdings. These losses dragged quarterly EPS down to $0.43, 62% lower than Q3 2006. Excluding the impact of the forward sale contract losses, earnings per share totaled $1.13.

On a brighter note, net revenue increased 26% to $583.5 million, ahead of analyst expectations of $546.7 million. The company increased prices to offset higher ingredient costs, and the Bloomfield Bakery and Cottage Bakery acquisitions helped fuel the quarter's sales.

Hey, where's my prize?
The quarter's fastest-growing segment was Ralston Foods, which makes store-brand cereal like "Whole Grain 100," "Corn Puffs," and "Fruit Wheels." You know, the cereal with the uninspired cartoons on the front of the box, and without the prizes at the bottom of the bag.

Despite the corny disposition, sales in this segment surged 59%. More cost-conscious consumers may be turning their attention to the lower shelves at the grocery store. With premium cereals made by Kellogg (NYSE:K), Kraft (NYSE:KFT), and General Mills (NYSE:GIS) now topping $5 a box in some areas due to higher commodity and packaging costs, the $3 knockoff brand begins to look all the more appealing.

This is one segment for Ralcorp investors to watch going forward, since the state of the U.S. consumer could play a big role in the company's revenue growth in subsequent quarters.

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Fool contributor Todd Wenning will buy knockoff cereal, but refuses to buy knockoff soda. It's just not the same -- not even close. Vail Resorts is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. The Fool's disclosure policy is the real deal.