By Micah Maidenberg 

Conagra Brands Inc. said demand for its products has jumped as consumers race to grocery stores to stock up on food as the coronavirus keeps restaurants closed and people inside.

Conagra, which makes Healthy Choice meals, Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and other packaged foods and snacks, has seen significantly elevated demand in its current fiscal quarter for its business serving grocers and retailers, Chief Executive Sean Connolly said in a statement Tuesday.

"On a quarter-to-date basis, shipments and consumption in our domestic retail business have increased approximately 50%," more than offsetting falling demand from restaurant buyers, he said.

Shoppers in the U.S. have been filling up their pantries and refrigerators, purchasing more of everything from pasta and beans to canned meat and salty snacks, according to research firm Nielsen. The surge has put pressure on grocers and their workforces.

Earlier this month, General Mills Inc. said it was running factories at near capacity to keep up with higher demand from retailers.

With demand rising from retail customers, Chicago-based Conagra now expects stronger financial results for its current fiscal year.

The company said sales for its quarter that ended Feb. 23 fell to $2.56 billion from $2.71 billion the year earlier. Analysts polled by FactSet expected Conagra to generate $2.58 billion in sales for the latest period.

Conagra said earnings dropped to $204.4 million, or 42 cents a share, from $242 million, or 50 cents a share, the year earlier.

It earned an adjusted profit of 47 cents a share for the latest period, 2 cents short of forecasts.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 31, 2020 08:43 ET (12:43 GMT)

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