ORRVILLE, Ohio, Aug. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE: SJM.A, SJM.B), held its 1997 annual shareholder meeting today in Wooster, Ohio, with approximately 850 persons in attendance. In addition to reviewing the Company's results for the fiscal year ended April 30, 1997, the meeting highlighted the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Company by Jerome M. Smucker in 1897.
In their presentation to the shareholders, Chairman Tim Smucker and President Richard Smucker briefly reviewed the history of the Company from its founding as a manufacturer of apple butter for the northeastern Ohio region to its current position as the nation's leader in jams, jellies, and preserves, ice cream toppings, natural peanut butter, and health and natural foods juice products. In commenting on the development of the Company, Richard Smucker noted that, "The Company's business has changed greatly and continued to evolve over the years. One thing that has not changed, however, is the foundation upon which all of the achievements have been built. J.M. Smucker founded his company on a set of basic beliefs. He believed in them, and he was true to them. Those basic beliefs -- quality, people, ethics, growth, and independence -- are as relevant today as they ever were, and we believe that they are the key to making our future as bright as our past."
Following the review of the Company's history, the Smuckers then discussed the current state of the business and commented on its strategy for the future. With regard to the present, Tim Smucker noted that the Company's Industrial and Foodservice businesses had exceptional years in fiscal 1997, and that the Company's largest business, the Consumer area, was showing renewed strength. In the grocery market in particular, according to Mr. Smucker, the Company's share of market in fruit spreads had improved steadily over the prior six-month period and was now at near record levels.
In his comments on strategy, Richard Smucker stated that the Company's ultimate goal is to be the company that "brings joy to all eating occasions." To do so, he noted, the Company will need to focus more than ever on the needs and desires of its consumers and customers and to take full advantage of the strength of its brand and its capabilities in fruit and fruit-related products. He also observed that as part of getting closer to its consumers, the Company will be focusing more of its efforts on ways of marketing directly to consumers.
Following the presentation, Richard Smucker also commented briefly on the Company's results for the first quarter of its 1998 fiscal year, ended July 31, 1997. Noting that the Company had finished the prior fiscal year with a strong fourth quarter, he stated that preliminary indications were that the trend was continuing in the first quarter of the new year. According to Mr. Smucker, sales for the first quarter are expected to be up approximately 14% over the prior year and earnings are expected to be up over 25%, reflecting good performance by all of the Company's businesses, especially Consumer and Industrial. Mr. Smucker noted further that the final earnings release for the first quarter is expected to be issued within the next week.
In the formal business of the meeting, the following individuals were re- elected by the shareholders of the Company for three-year terms: Elizabeth Valk Long, Charles S. Mechem, Jr., Timothy P. Smucker, and Benjamin B. Tregoe, Jr. The shareholders also ratified the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as the Company's independent auditors for the 1998 fiscal year.