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Campbell Soup's 1Q dips as company repositions

NEW YORK (AP) -- Campbell Soup's net income slipped 8 percent in the first quarter as it booked charges related to its acquisition of premium juice maker Bolthouse Farms and the planned closings of two U.S. plants. But it noted that a lineup of new soups and sauces helped lift sales for its flagship business.

The world's biggest soup maker, which also makes Pepperidge Farm baked goods and V8 vegetable juices, said Tuesday that it earned $245 million, or 78 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Oct. 28. That compares with $265 million, or 82 cents per share, a year ago.

Not including such one-time items related to its acquisition of Bolthouse Farms and the plant closings, Campbell said it earned 88 cents per share.

Net sales rose 8 percent to $2.34 billion.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 85 cents per share on sales of $2.36 billion, according to FactSet.

Campbell Soup Co., based in Camden, N.J., is repositioning to grow beyond its condensed soup business. After years of declining sales, Campbell has been flooding supermarket shelves with new soups and sauces designed to resonate with people in their 20s and 30s. Instead of the company's iconic steel cans, for example, the newest products come in plastic pouches that can be torn open and microwaved. The company said these "Campbell's Go" soups and "Skillet Sauces" helped lift sales for its U.S. soup and sauce business 3 percent in the quarter.

The increase was driven by a 1 percent increase in volume and 2 percent increase in price. Still, the unit remains troubled and sales of condensed soups fell 1 percent. In September, the company also announced the closure of its oldest soup plant in the country, as well as a spice plant, as a result of declining consumption. Campbell said the closing will save money.

Sales for Campbell's snacks and baked goods unit rose 1 percent to $574 million, driven by its Goldfish crackers and new Jingos crackers. Sales for the beverage unit fell 5 percent to $189 million, due to a decrease in sales of V8 vegetable and V8 V-Fusion juices.

The company stood by its guidance for 2013, with earnings expected to be between $2.51 per share and $2.57 per share. Sales are expected to grow 10 percent to 12 percent, primarily driven by its acquisition of Bolthouse Farms. The purchase of Bolthouse earlier this year is intended to position Campbell in the premium juice market and fresh packaged food markets, which are growing at a faster rate than the general packaged food market.