United Natural Foods Inc. said net income increased by 23.6% in the fiscal second quarter despite the winter weather literally freezing some sales.

The natural products distributor recorded around $700,000 in losses resulting from freight aboard trucks traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast that froze en route, CEO Steven Spinner told analysts in a conference call. This caused UNFI to move some items in temperature controlled fleets, which were more expensive to operate.


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These items — along with exchange challenges related to a declining Canadian dollar — caused quarterly earnings of $28 million to fall slightly below analyst estimates, while sales of $1.6 billion were a bit higher than expected.

Sales climbed by 13.9% overall, led by strong growth in sales to supermarket customers, the company said. Supermarket sales increased by 15.3% in the quarter and now comprise more than a quarter (26%) of all sales. Supernatural sales improved by 12.7% and independents by 11%.

“The trend towards healthier lifestyles and heightened awareness of product ingredients continues to grow,” Spinner said in a conference call.

The company also slightly raised its earnings forecast for the year, saying earnings per share would be in the range of $2.45 to $2.51 per share, up from earlier estimates of $2.40-$2.50.

Freezing weather across much of the country during the quarter, which ended Jan. 26, resulted in around $700,000 worth of items being rejected by receivers upon delivery, Spinner said. This prompted the distributor to move more items than usual in temperature controlled trailers, at a cost of around $650,000, he said.

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