Schneiders lunch kit and Maple Leaf shaved ham
Maple Leaf released its latest fourth quarter numbers.

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Maple Leaf Foods Inc.’s fourth quarter financial performance received a boost from the company’s Meat Products Group.

Adjusted operating earnings for the segment, which includes brands such as Schneiders and Maple Leaf, reached C$54.6 million ($40.3 million) in the quarter compared to a loss of C$19.1 million ($15.3 million) a year ago. Earnings advanced on improved sales mix, pricing and the company’s new prepared meats network. Additionally, earnings in fresh poultry increased on higher volume, stronger industry processing margins, improved sales mix and operating efficiencies. Meanwhile, fresh pork earnings grew on higher volume and improved export margins.

 “We are very pleased with our consistent earnings growth in the year and fourth quarter, driven by our commercial performance and continued progress lowering operating costs in our new plant network,” said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. “We are entering 2016 with momentum, confident that the strategic goals of our transformational investments have been met, with only normal ramp-up inefficiencies in a single facility remaining.”

The new prepared meats network is the result of a $1 billion organizational makeover that started in 2010. Since then, Maple Leaf has restructured and streamlined its processing operations by simultaneously closing legacy plants and building new facilities including a 400,000-sq.-ft. processing plant. The company also consolidated 17 of its distribution centers into two.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2015, the company reported net earnings from continuing operations of C$33.3 million ($24.6 million), or 24 cents per share, compared to a loss of C$23.0 million ($18.4 million) or 16 cents per share a year ago. Sales from continuing operations advanced 10.0 percent from last year, or 7.0 percent after adjusting for the impact of foreign exchange, to C$873.1 million ($644.9 million), due to higher sales in the Meat Products Group and an additional week in 2015, the company said.

In the Agribusiness Group reported a loss of C$6.9 million ($5.1 million) during the quarter compared to earnings of C$5.4 million ($4.3 million) last year. Maple Leaf attributed the loss to a substantial drop in hog prices.