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Flowers Foods, Inc. (FLO) has distinguished itself from other companies in 2008 by producing very steady investor returns. Much of the recent strength comes on the heels of the company's excellent first-quarter results, reported on May 22.

Flowers Foods, Inc. produces baked goods in the United States. The company distributes its products to bakeries and grocery stores. Flowers Foods was founded in 1919, carries a market cap. of $2.63 billion and is headquartered in Thomasville, Georgia.

Most investors would quickly dismiss a baked goods company from an aggressive growth portfolio, but Flowers definitely fits the mold, as seen by the company's impressive first-quarter results, reported on May 22.

First-Quarter Results

Sales increased to $676.7 million, up 10.9% from the same period last year. Net income also jumped ahead, coming in at $35.8 million, a 25.6% increase from last year. This produced earnings of 39 cents per share, outpacing analyst expectations of 35 cents.

This is a company that has a track record of surprising and beating analyst estimates, having done so over the last four quarters by an average of 2 cents, or 8.6%.

Share Repurchasing

The company noted that it continued to move forward with its share repurchase plan, purchasing 256,248 shares of its common stock for $5.8 million at an average price of $22.75. Since the inception of the share repurchase plan, the company has acquired 19.4 million shares of its common stock for $286.2 million, an average of $14.76 per share. Flowers also noted that it paid dividends totaling $11.5 million during the quarter.

After the solid quarter, the analyst community boosted its guidance, following the lead of Flowers. The current-year estimate is currently pegged at $1.20 per share, up 7 cents from last month.

The Chart

As previously mentioned, shares of FLO have been solid performers in 2008, posting very steady gains in a highly volatile environment. After setting a new 52-week high in late May this stock has traded mostly sideways for the last few weeks, with shares recently advancing to the top of the channel to once again challenge the high. Take a look at the chart below.

 

Source: Flowers Foods: Food for Portfolio Growth