J&J Snack Foods shares up on profit hike

UPDATE: Shares of J&J Snack Foods, the Pennsauken, N.J.-based company that makes Icees, Luigi's Water Ice, California Churros, Daddy Ray's fruit bars and dozens of other snacks for school and work cafeterias, supermarkets and Wawa, rose $7.38, or 9 percent, to a record $92.60 in trading today, after the company last night reported $203.5 million in sales over the last three months, a 6% rise from last year, plus a 22% rise in per-share profits, which totalled $12.4 million for the quarter.

J&J has acquired a string of low-wage factories and brands under boss Gerald Shreiber, who is also the company's largest shareholder, with stock worth more than $300 million at this morning's prices. Other major holders include the BlackRock, Vanguard, JPMorgan and Royce & Associates investment groups and the New Jersey Division of Investments, which manages that state's pension funds.

Shreiber told investors in a conference call that he's looking for more food businesses to buy. The company recently expanded its plants in Pennsauken and Bellmawr, N.J. and Chambersburg, Pa., he added. Employment totals 3,300. About half have health insurance; Shreiber expects Obamacare will boost J&J's healthcare spending, while wages should go up this year in the "low single digits."

If Shreiber, who will be 73 this year, wants to sell J&J, he could likely unload the frozen and liquid snacks business with Nestle or Unilever, and the baked-snacks business with Keebler or another large company says Robert Costello, owner of Costello Asset Management, Huntingdon Valley, and a longtime J&J-watcher.

-- Joseph N. DiStefano