Sara Lee has reported strong sales performance within its North American fresh bakery division, in its first-quarter results to 27 September 2008. Net sales have increased by 17.1% to $571 million (£370m) and unit volumes rose by 6.6%, driven by volume growth for branded and private-label fresh bakery products, according to a company statement. The Illinois-based firm’s overall net sales are up 9.6% compared to the same period last year, which the company has reported is primarily down to price increases to offset higher input costs, as well as “favourable foreign currency exchange rates and strong unit volumes”.

Brenda C Barnes, chairman and chief executive officer of Sara Lee, said the fresh bakery business had “achieved increases in unit volumes, net sales and operating income, and experienced market share gains across virtually every major brand in each major category”.

The company’s International Bakery division saw net sales increase by 4% to $229m (£148.5m) for the same period. Operating profit stands at $15m (£9.7m) for the first quarter, compared to $13m (£8.4m) for the same 2007/08 period. Its Northern American Foodservice division saw a net sales increase of 4.1% in the first quarter of fiscal 2009, partly due to growth in “focus categories”, such as foodservice pies.

It has also been reported that the company plans to invest $80m in its coffee extraction capacity in the Netherlands over the next two years. The new plant, which expects to be fully operational in 2010, will produce instant coffee for the UK, as well as Australia, Russia and Poland.