Israeli food firm Strauss Q4 profit up 2 pct

TEL AVIV, March 20 Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:16am EDT

TEL AVIV, March 20 (Reuters) - Net profit at Israeli food and drinks company Strauss Group rose 2 percent in the fourth quarter, boosted by higher sales at its dips and spreads joint ventures with PepsiCo.

Strauss on Wednesday posted quarterly adjusted net income of 68 million shekels ($18.4 million), up from 67 million a year earlier. Sales rose 1.6 percent to 2.1 billion shekels, including a 3.5 percent rise in its domestic market.

Strauss, a maker of snacks, fresh foods and coffee, is a market leader in roast and ground coffee in central and eastern Europe. It is the second-largest company in the Israeli food and beverage market.

Global coffee sales fell 2.2 percent to 1.125 billion shekels though operating profit in the coffee segment rose by 11.2 percent.

Sales at its international dips and spreads joint venture half-owned by PepsiCo - jumped 39 percent in the quarter as operating profit surged 64.8 percent.

Chief Executive Gadi Lesin said Strauss continues to expand globally while investing in its home base in Israel.

"The group's strong performance in the past year is the outcome of long-term processes executed outside Israel in the last decade in the international coffee segment and in the international dips and spreads operation," said Gadi Lesin, chief executive of Strauss.

"The Israeli market continues to pose a challenge, and accordingly, we have persevered with innovation ... while executing dozens of internal streamlining processes."

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