Retail & Consumer

Cheerios-owner General Mills sales jump on pet food boom

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Sept 22 (Reuters) - Cheerios-maker General Mills Inc (GIS.N) reported better-than-expected quarterly sales on Wednesday, as strong growth in its pet foods business cushioned a slowdown in demand for its cooking sauces and baking products.

Net revenue at its pet foods unit jumped 25% in the first quarter, benefiting from a rise in the adoption of cats and dogs by people looking to ease the stress of the more than a year-long pandemic.

General Mills has also launched new items such as Tastefuls cat food and bought Tyson Foods' pet treats business to take advantage of the demand surge.

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That helped drive total net sales 4.1% higher to $4.54 billion, beating the analysts' average estimate of $4.29 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

General Mills shares were 2% higher as it maintained its forecast for annual organic net sales to come in toward the higher end of a 1% to 3% decline range.

General Mills Inc's Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are displayed on the shelf of a Whole Foods Market store in Venice, California, U.S., March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Lisa Baertlein

The reported quarter showed that demand for cereals, snacks and baking products continued to recede from last year's pandemic peak, with the core North America retail business posting a 3% fall.

The Betty Crocker cake mixes maker's gross margins also shrank 1.2%, taking a hit from higher transportation costs, labor shortages and a surge in raw material prices that have impacted the entire packaged foods industry.

"The current operating environment is as dynamic as we’ve experienced in at least the last decade," Chief Executive Officer Jeff Harmening said in his pre-recorded remarks.

He added that the company expected total input cost inflation for the year to be roughly 7% to 8%, up from a prior estimate of 7%.

Quarterly net earnings attributable to General Mills fell 2% to $627 million, or $1.02 per share.

On an adjusted basis, it earned 99 cents per share, compared with estimates of 89 cents per share.

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Reporting by Deborah Sophia and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni

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