SMITHFIELD, Va. – Encouraged by a successful third quarter, Smithfield Foods, Inc. forges ahead with its transformation to a consumer packaged meats company.

“This transformation is providing us with increasingly high quality and more consistent earnings,” said Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer, in a March 7 call with financial analysts to discuss earnings.

Smithfield’s growth strategy includes a recently announced partnership with Kansas City Sausage Co. LLC to extend its reach into breakfast and dinner sausage platforms, as well as the January opening of a hot dog plant in North Carolina.

“We believe this plant will deliver superior product at substantially lower cost and give us a leadership position in the hot dog category,” Pope said. “The product is cooked in the package, providing the most- safe hot dog on the market.”

The company plans to focus on targeting value-added acquisitions, upgrading plant equipment and building a strong product pipeline.

“Our innovation will be focused in five strategic areas: packaging, health and wellness, convenience, taste and pork consumer solutions,” Pope said. “These platforms have a strong focus on product differentiation, highlighting quality and convenience; better-for-you food, including lower sodium, lean protein, natural ingredients and new taste experiences.”

Packaged meats sales contributed to a 3 percent increase in income during the quarter, led by double-digit growth of Smithfield bacon, Eckrich dinner sausage and Armour dry sausage.

“Our packaged meats business in on fire,” Pope said. “We’re extremely pleased with what’s going on there.”