AUSTIN, MINN. — Hormel Foods Corp.’s earnings increased 17% during fiscal 2009. The company’s net income in the year ended Sept. 25 was $342,813,000, equal to $2.55 per share on the common stock, up from $285,500,000, or $2.11 per share, in fiscal 2008.

Sales for the year were $6,533,671,000, a decline when compared with the previous year when the company’s sales were $6,754,903,000.

The company’s earnings for the fourth quarter also improved. Net income was $103,876,000, or 78c per share, up from $67,811,000, or 50c per share, in the same period a year earlier.

"We are pleased to report an excellent finish to fiscal 2009," said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer. "All five business segments contributed to our third consecutive strong quarter, generating a 54% increase in e.p.s. and a 17% increase in segment operating profit. We are happy to get back on track with our long-term record of earnings growth after a challenging year in 2008."

Mr. Ettinger said for fiscal 2010 Hormel Foods expects earnings per share in the range of $2.63 to $2.73 per share.

"Having returned to more normal earnings growth levels this year, we are confident in our ability to continue to enhance our bottom line," he said. "We intend to tackle the challenge of a continued weak economy and reduced consumer spending, and expect to restore top-line growth on an annualized basis in 2010."