A global slowdown in demand for french fries took a financial toll on Lamb Weston Holdings Inc., a major Mid-Columbia employer as well as buyer of Washington-grown potatoes.
Lamb Weston, based in Eagle, Idaho, reported 2020 highlights on July 28 for the fiscal year that ended July 20. The Covid-19 pandemic took hold midway through its fiscal year, dampening earnings in the third and fourth quarters.
The company reported $366 million in earnings on nearly $3.8 billion in sales compared to its 2019 year or $2.49 per diluted share. Net sales rose by 1% but net income and earnings per share were both down, by 24% and 22% respectively.
“The final months of fiscal 2020 were some of the most challenging in our company,” Tom Werner, president and chief executive officer, said in an earnings announcement. “During this time, we have prioritized the health and safety of our Lamb Weston team, and worked closely with our customers and suppliers as they manage through this uncertain environment.”
Lamb Weston said it ended its year with North American shipments at approximately 85% of 2019 levels, European shipments at 75% and Chinese shipments at 85%.
“As states began to reopen, we saw clear evidence of frozen potato demand steadily strengthening across our restaurant and foodservice channels,” Werner said. “In the aggregate, french fry demand from most of our quick service restaurant customers in North America and our international markets ... rebounded substantially by the end of June,” it said.
Lamb Weston offered no financial guidance for its 2021 year, citing the uncertainty around the pace of the economic recovery.
Lamb Weston operates frozen potato plants as well as storage facilities throughout the Mid-Columbia and has research facilities in Richland and corporate offices in Kennewick.
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