Whole Foods beats Street expectations

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NEW YORK — Whole Foods reported a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street expectations and shares of the organic and natural grocery chain rose.

The company said Wednesday that sales rose 3.1 percent at established locations during its fiscal fourth quarter, which ran through Sept. 28. Looking ahead to its next fiscal year, it said it expects the figure to rise in the low- to mid-single digits.

As traditional supermarkets and big-box retailers muscle into the organic category, Whole Foods’ sales growth has slowed and it has been fighting to more sharply define what sets it apart. That has meant trying to stay ahead of trends, such as giving customers more information about where its products come from.

Last month, for instance, it introduced a ranking system that labels produce as “good,” ”better” or “best” based on the supplier’s farming practices. It also plans to label all products that have genetically modified ingredients by 2018.

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Whole Foods is also trying to appeal to a broader audience by shaking its “Whole Paycheck” image. To bring down its prices, the company has been pushing its store brands, such as its 365 Everyday Value line. The company, which has 400 locations, said it sees potential for 1,200 locations in the United States over the long term.

For the quarter, Whole Foods Market Inc. earned $128 million, or 35 cents per share, topping the 32 cents per share analysts expected, according to FactSet.

A year ago, it earned $121 million, or 32 cents per share.

Revenue rose 9.4 percent to $3.26 billion, in line with Wall Street expectations.

It also hiked its dividend by a penny to 13 cents.

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