ATCHISON, KANSAS, U.S. — In February, MGP Ingredients’ top executive said the supplier of specialty wheat proteins and starches would embark on a five-year strategic growth plan focused on increasing operating income four-fold over 2014. Early returns from the first quarter of fiscal 2015 show the company is off to a good start.

Net income at MGPI in the first quarter ended March 31 was $5,070,000, equal to 28¢ per share on the common stock, up 6% from $4,785,000, or 26¢ per share, in the same period a year ago. Gross profit for the quarter doubled, increasing to $13,388,000 from $6,801,000, while operating income jumped to $6,908,000 from $1,729,000. Sales rose to $80,413,000 from $78,996,000.

“We are very pleased with our first-quarter results, which are early evidence of the traction we are gaining against our new strategic plan,” said Gus Griffin, president and chief executive officer of MGPI. “MGP Ingredients’ first-quarter performance demonstrates significant progress in shifting our product mix and driving the growth of our higher value products.”

Operating profit within the Ingredient Solutions segment was $1,333,000, up sharply from $299,000 in the same period a year ago. Net sales to customers were $14,551,000, up from $14,064,000.

“We are very pleased to see the strong growth in our specialty starches,” Griffin said. “It is clear that the industry is reacting favorably to the unique benefits that our products offer. Additionally, the favorable mix shift towards specialty products is further evidence of our focus on maximizing the value of our production and helped us achieve strong pricing relative to flour costs. We continue to be confident in our plans to realize the long-term potential of this business segment.”

Operating profit within the Distillery Products segment was $11,138,000, up 104% from $5,452,000 a year ago. Sales increased to $65,862,000 from $64,932,000.

Griffin is expected to provide an update on MGPI’s 5-year strategic plan at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders set for May 21 at the Ferrell Academic Center of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, U.S.