Why Flower Foods, Inc. Stock Shriveled Today

What: Shares of Flower Foods Inc. fell more than 20% early Thursday after the packaged bakery foods producer released weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter 2015 results.

So what: Quarterly revenue fell 2.2% year over year to $858.4 million, but would have climbed 0.5% excluding acquisitions and an extra week last fiscal year. That translated to an 18.5% decline adjusted net income to $34 million, or $0.16 per diluted share. Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $907.8 million to result in a slight increase to adjusted earnings of $0.21 per share.

"While we continued to make significant progress on our strategic initiatives," explained CEO Allen Shiver, "our earnings in the fourth quarter were affected by sales that were below plan. In line with channel data for the total store, the pace of Flowers' retail sales in the fourth quarter slowed relative to trends we observed in the first three quarters."

Now what: For the full fiscal year 2016, Flower Foods anticipates revenue of $3.986 billion to $4.080 billion, good for growth of roughly 5.5% to 8% over fiscal 2015. Meanwhile, fiscal 2016 earnings per share should be $0.98 to $1.04, or growth of 6.5% to 13% over EPS in 2015. Even so, analysts' consensus estimates called for revenue near the high end of Flower Foods' expected range, and earnings of $1.10 per share.

That's not to say Flower Foods' shortfall was so far off the mark as to merit today's steep decline. After all, the company did grow its share of the burgeoning organic premium segment through its acquisitions of Dave's Killer Bread and Alpine Valley Bread. What's more, Flower Foods continues to invest in growth, including its recent opening of a new bakery in Lenexa, Kansas, to help it better serve the Midwest region. And Flower Foods continues to generate strong operating cash flow ($327.2 million last year, including $46.7 million in Q4), helping it fund acquisitions while at the same time increase its dividend, which now offers a healthy annual yield of 3.5%.

However, in the end -- and while Flower Foods may well be able to continue generating shareholder value by executing on its strategic initiatives going forward -- it's hard to blame investors for taking a step back today given the company's lackluster growth.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Flowers Foods. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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