PITTSBURGH: Addressing Wednesday's annual stockholders' meeting, William R Johnson the three-hatted chairman/president/ceo of H J Heinz was in buoyant mode.

With scarcely a glance over his shoulder at activist shareholder and boardroom colleague Nelson Peltz, Johnson's performance would not have disgraced a televangelist.

"Simply put, the company's overall performance last year was outstanding," he said. "We posted strong sales growth of better than 4%, operating income growth of more than 7%, and EPS [earnings per share] growth from continuing operations of 13% - all of this despite a challenging cost environment and one less selling week than in the prior year.

"Our top fifteen brands, which represent almost 70% of Heinz's sales, grew even faster at 8.5%, validating our [or more specifically, Peltz's] strategy to accelerate investments in innovation and marketing.

"Our emphasis on productivity, combined with selective pricing, helped us successfully expand margins in Fiscal 2007 while overcoming the worst commodity inflation I have witnessed in over 25 years at Heinz."

As to the future, Johnson belied the corporate pessimism of his peers. "We have robust new product pipelines across our developed markets as we enter financial year 2008, and we plan to continue supporting our product launches with substantially increased marketing investment."

He then delivered the double-whammy: "In fact, we plan to increase the marketing spending behind our key brands by an additional $100 million over the two years - 2007/08 - while continuing to grow R&D investment at a double-digit rate."

To view the full meeting release click here.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff