Smithfield Foods announced a fourth-quarter loss of $78.8 million, or 55 cents a share, compared to a gain of $2.4 million from a year ago. Still, the results were better than analyst estimates of a loss of 59 cents a share. For the fiscal year, the net loss stood at $190.3 million versus a net income of $128.9 million from the previous year. Sales increased more than $1.1 billion, or 10 percent, from the previous year. The company reported that hog production suffered substantial losses due to record high feed costs, and Smithfield reduced its hog herd by 10 percent. On the positive side, packaged meats achieved record profits, as did export sales.

"Fiscal 2009 was one of the most challenging years in over three decades for the company,” said C. Larry Pope, CEO. “We faced grain and oil markets that reached record highs and then fell precipitously. These input dynamics, combined with an oversupply of all proteins as well as a worldwide recession and credit constraints, put significant pressure on the business. But despite the challenges we confronted, we did not sit on the sidelines and wait for the economic conditions to improve; we have taken numerous actions to make us a more profitable company: namely, we repositioned the company's operations and made meaningful improvements to our liquidity and financial strength. As a result, I am especially pleased with our packaged meats business which delivered record profits even as fresh pork was weak in the face of an economic downturn. For the full year, the pork segment produced record profits, before the $88 million of restructuring costs, and is set to deliver very strong results going forward.”

The company said that the fallout from the H1N1 virus scare only caused a temporary affect on U.S. demand, which hurt the company last month but has leveled off since. Export issues related to the virus remain a problem, however. "Unfortunately, we continue to experience restrictions in some international markets, specifically China, which is negatively impacting exports in the first quarter of fiscal 2010," Pope said.

Source: Marketwatch, Smithfield Foods Inc.

New labeling program unveiled by NSF, ASN

NSF International and the American Society for Nutrition today announced their joint roles in administering a new nutritional front-of-package labeling program, the Smart Choices Program. This nutrition labeling program will provide manufacturers and retailers with a reliable front-of-pack icon plus calorie information that helps consumers recognize smarter food and beverage products within product categories.

The goal of this new labeling program is to bring consistency and clarity to the U.S. marketplace. With the proliferation of front-of-pack labels, there is little uniformity, which often makes it difficult for manufacturers to convey the nutritional benefits of their products and can cause consumer confusion. The Smart Choices Program will make it easier for consumers to quickly identify products and select smarter food and beverage choices within product categories, NSF says, adding that it provides an opportunity for manufacturers to communicate with consumers about better-for-you products in a clear and consistent manner.

The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and NSF International will act as program administrators providing both scientific and technical expertise to a board of directors comprised of non-profit, scientific and industry representatives. "NSF International’s core business is certifying products and writing standards for food, water and consumer goods in order to protect public health. This labeling program will assist consumers in choosing nourishing foods and beverages that fit within their daily caloric needs," said Nancy Culotta, NSF vice president. "We look forward to working with ASN to administer the program and ultimately help educate consumers on nutritional labeling."

"The Smart Choices Program was developed through an unprecedented collaboration of scientists, public health advocates, food industry representatives and health organizations, and it is based on sound, consensus science. As the preeminent professional society for nutrition science, ASN looks forward to working with this exciting new program that will aid consumers in making healthier food selections when they shop," said Jim Hill, ASN president.

To qualify for the Smart Choices Program, all products must meet standards for specific “nutrients to limit,” and, for most categories, products must also meet criteria for positive attributes – “nutrients to encourage” or “food groups to encourage.” Specific qualifying criteria were developed for 19 different product categories, such as beverages, cereals, meats, dairy and snacks:
Nutrients to limit: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium
Nutrients to encourage:  calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E
Food groups to encourage:  fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat free dairy

The Smart Choices Program is not based on a scoring system; but rather it identifies foods based on science-based nutrition criteria within specific product categories.  Products that meet the criteria are eligible to bear the Smart Choices icon on the front of the package.  Accompanying the Smart Choices icon will be information on the number of calories per serving, as well as the number of servings in the package.  The straight-forward and transparent nutrition criteria distinguish the Smart Choices Program from others in the marketplace. All information is publicly available on the program’s Web site:

Companies who have already signed up to participate in the program include ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, SunMaid and Unilever.

Source: NSF International