DEAR FELLOW SHAREHOLDERS:
Our Annual General Meeting was held on July 27, 2004. At that meeting almost 13,500,000 shares registered to vote out of 15,040,000, or almost 90%. That is simply an astounding turnout and for that we thank you.
I am pleased to say that all of the items on the agenda were approved by wide margins, the lowest percentage vote cast being for the grant of additional stock options, at approximately 89%. As management, we understand that there are differing views as to the utility and apparent cost of stock options. We do not issue them without careful consideration and are certainly mindful of the negative impact of stock-based compensation charges. We have, however, found that options are an important aspect of management compensation, particularly as they relate to many of our longer term, key employees. As we continue to look for opportunities to expand our business it is important for us to have the flexibility to provide incentives to new managers in this way.
Turning to operations, I have been very pleased with the summer so far. We have made some great strides in expanding the on-premise (restaurant) business of our Caesar's® brand that will next year set the stage for further grocery expansion of that product. We have shipped Soy2O™ to Mexico and are rapidly growing its listing base in both Canada and the United States. The recently announced agreement with NSSI as our national health and specialty broker in the United States is an important step in the growth of that brand. It is a relationship that we have been working on for many months and something that we are proud to have achieved.
We have already gained listings for Soy2O™ in Whole Foods mid-Atlantic region, AJ's in Arizona and several chains in the mid-West and Northwest. This product and relationship has also allowed us to move forward with UNFI, the largest natural foods wholesaler in the US. As part of our Integrated Distribution system, UNFI will help us reliably get Soy2O™ and our other natural products to market at a competitive price while allowing us to maintain acceptable margins.
We are having great success with TREK® at Costco® across Canada. We believe that a strong peak selling season with them will open doors for us with that account in the United States.
Another brand that is growing in leaps and bounds for us is Fiji Water® which we license for Canada. In the past year we have increased sales of that premium water brand by more than 70%. It is a wonderful product that is also seeing significant growth in the United States and abroad.
Our product development continues, with two new carbonated products slated for launch within the next few months. We like to introduce new brands in the Fall, to allow presentations to be made off-season and provide a base of distribution heading into the Spring.
Thank you for your continued support.
LEADING BRANDS, INC.
Ralph D. McRae
Chairman & CEO
Certain information contained in this press release includes forward-looking statements. Words such as “believe”, “expect,” “will,” or comparable terms, are intended to identify forward-looking statements concerning the Company’s expectations, beliefs, intentions, plans, objectives, future events or performance and other developments. All forward-looking statements included in this press release are based on information available to the Company on the date hereof. Such statements speak only as of the date hereof. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the Company’s estimations and projections are disclosed in the Company’s securities filings and include, but are not limited to, the following: general economic conditions, weather conditions, changing beverage consumption trends, pricing, availability of raw materials, economic uncertainties (including currency exchange rates), government regulation, managing and maintaining growth, the effect of adverse publicity, litigation, competition and other risk factors described from time to time in securities reports filed by Leading Brands, Inc.