FOOD & RECIPES

Hain Celestial CEO sees growth acceleration ahead

LAKE SUCCESS, NY. — Pleased with what he called a “good” year and a “solid” fourth quarter, Mark L. Schiller, president and chief executive officer of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Lake Success, said the company is poised for a year of accelerating growth.

Mr. Schiller commented on the company’s fiscal 2021 financials and 2022 outlook in an Aug. 26 conference call with investment analysts.

In the year ended June 30, Hain Celestial net income was $77.4 million, equal to 77¢ per share on the common stock, a reversal from a loss of $80.4 million a year earlier. Net sales were $1.97 billion, down 4.1% from $2.05 billion.

In the fourth quarter, Hain Celestial net income was $40.9 million, or 40¢ per share, up sharply from $3.24 million, or 4¢. Sales were $450.7 billion, down 12% from $41.7 million.

Mr. Schiller described fourth-quarter results as in line or better than forecasts — sales down 11% to 14% (actual down 11.9%), and margin improvement 100 basis points (actual, up 296 points); 10% adjusted EBITDA dollar growth (9.6% actual).

In Nasdaq trading the morning of Aug. 26, investors appeared less sanguine about the Hain Celestial results. The company’s shares traded down $2.50, or 6.3%, late in the morning, at $37.50 per share.

The investor response may have reflected a more difficult sales situation in fiscal 2021 (especially the fourth quarter) for Hain’s North American business than for the company overall. Operating income for the year in North America was $129 million, up 34% from $95.93 million in fiscal 2020. Net sales were $1.10 billion, down 6% from $1.171 billion in fiscal 2020.

Fourth-quarter operating profit in North America was $23.8 million, down 25% from $31.9 million in the final quarter a year earlier. Net sales were $253 million, down 15% from $299 million.

“We had a more challenging quarter driven by the same issues facing the entire industry,” Mr. Schiller said. “As we discussed on the last call, inflation was significant, and labor shortages throughout the supply chain affected sourcing, internal manufacturing and distribution of goods to customers. As a result, these headwinds in the COVID overlap impacted margins and profitability within the quarter. While these overall results were below the robust growth we’ve been consistently delivering, EBITDA was still up 16% versus pre-pandemic Q4 F ‘19 with over 300 points of adjusted EBITDA margin expansion. And for the entire year compared to a year ago, our adjusted EBITDA in North America.”

Adding color to the difficulty of the comparison with fiscal 2020, Javier H. Idrovo, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the current quarter lapped an April-June quarter of strong hand sanitizer sales that alone represented a headwind of more than 300 basis points.

Going into fiscal 2022, Mr. Schiller identified numerous reasons for optimism. The company already has taken pricing to cover higher costs and said the volume impact to date has been minimal. Customer acceptance has been high. Other challenges that posed problems in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 have been addressed as well.

“We’ve made terrific progress on our sourcing, manufacturing and distribution headwinds and expect most of these to be fully behind us over the next few months,” he said. “As evidence of our progress, our services improved quarter-to-date. And last week, we had one of the best shipment weeks we’ve had over the past several years.”

For fiscal 2022, Hain Celestial is forecasting low single-digit adjusted net sales growth, adjusted gross margin expansion and mid to high single-digit adjusted EBITDA growth. Versus fiscal 2019, the company expects full year adjusted net sales growth of high single digits with adjusted EBITDA and EBITDA margin growth of at least 65% and 500 bps, respectively.

Mr. Schiller said the forecast is predicated on a number of factors, including stabilizing, rather than increasing inflation, though he said the company was prepared to take further pricing if necessary. Pricing and productivity gains are expected to more than offset inflation, allowing for stepped-up marketing spending and “robust margin growth.” The results also will rely on success with new product introductions, resulting in increased shelf space.

The forecast also relies on an expectation that disruptions from the Delta variant are moderate.

“We’ve assumed minimal short-term impact from the COVID Delta variant and that society gradually gravitates back to the pre-pandemic mix of in-home and out-of-home meeting occasions by the end of the calendar year,” he said.

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