Are things really improving for packaged-foods producer H.J. Heinz (NYSE: HNZ)?

For fiscal 2010's third quarter, revenue of $2.68 billion was up big time -- nearly 13% year over year. That blows away recent quarterly results posted by such competitors as Kraft (NYSE: KFT), Kellogg, and even the industry's standout performer, General Mills (NYSE: GIS).

But lift the bun off those results, and Heinz's heaping helping shrinks to a more normal-sized portion. For one, revenue in the year-ago period was down 7.5%, setting up an awfully easy comparison. Moreover, favorable currency movements made an ample contribution to reported revenue.

By contrast, organic sales -- a metric that strips out the effects of forex and acquisitions/divestitures -- rose 3%. That's much more in line with the similarly adjusted sales figures that I've seen from other major players. 

Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of volume as a measure of retailer and consumer traction. But here we once again run into a problem of appearance versus reality. While total volume did increase slightly more than 1%, it would've been difficult not to turn in a positive showing, given that this key data point sunk 6% in last year's comparative quarter.

Now, management was keen to notify conference-call listeners that volume would've been up nearly 3% if not for its food-service business. Externally, segment results were pressured by anemic restaurant traffic; internally, Heinz has been earnestly reducing product variety in order to boost profitability.

Look, we all know that quick-serve restaurants including McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Burger King (NYSE: BKC) have seen lackluster U.S. sales, even as outliers such as Panera (Nasdaq: PNRA) and Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD) buck the trend. Furthermore, I'm all for clarifying the impact of restructuring activities. The frustration, however, lies in management's failure to break out the poor foodservice performance according to each event. That omission made this and other parts of the conference call come across as a whirligig of positive spin.

If you're starting to get a bad taste in your mouth, just wait for this final forkful. As a savvy analyst duly noted, Heinz didn't even mention market-share trends. Different companies provide various levels of detail in this regard, but to be completely mum on the subject -- even when confronted on a conference call -- is frankly suspicious.

Ultimately, the quarter did have its genuine positives. Driven by pricing, currency, volume, and productivity advances, earnings per share increased more than 9%, to $0.83. Organic sales in emerging markets jumped 15%. Meanwhile, operating free cash flow soared 88% to $439 million.

But given management's less-than-straightforward approach to sharing company results, combined with easy year-over-year comparisons, it's hard to know whether the company is enjoying anything more than a one- or two-quarter bounce.

Unless shares pull back dramatically, put Heinz on your hot dog, but let others dress their portfolios with the stock.

Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. H.J. Heinz is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Mike Pienciak holds no financial interest in any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.